15 to 20 percent of urban trees in Utah are Ash Trees, and according to the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, they are all in danger of an insect infestation.
The insect is the Emerald Ash Borer. Although it hasn’t yet been detected in Utah, the Department of Food and Agriculture is bracing for its arrival. Clint Burfitt is the department’s entomologist. He says the insects have been wiping out different species of Ash Trees all over North America.
“All the way up from Quebec down to Arkansas, now it’s as far west as Boulder Colorado. It’s not a matter of if Emerald Ash Borer gets here, but when. It’s the most destructive forest pest ever in North America as far as we’ve determined,” says Burnfitt.
The department estimates that the Emerald Ash Borer has killed more than 50 million Ash trees in the U.S. and is most likely spreading from fire wood being transported from one location to another. Burfitt says it’s important for people to burn wood where they buy it or collect it because once an Ash Tree is infested, it only has four to ten years before it dies.
“These trees would become hazard trees. You don’t want dead trees lining your street. In a wind storm they call fall down and hit people’s cars or houses," Says Burnfitt
To prevent further destruction and costs, the department is urging cities to remove Ash Trees from their city planning lists. So far only Salt Lake, South Salt Lake, Bluffdale and Provo have complied.