7.5 billion ash trees are endangered in the United States. (Photo credit Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune)
The culprit is the well-known emerald ash borer, an invasive Asian beetle that first arrived in Michigan seven years ago. The infestation has spread to Ohio, Canada, and now Minnesota, threatening to do a log power more damage than the famous Dutch Elm Disease. Federal and state authorities have responded to the emerald ash borer by limiting transportation of timber and wood products, but have been unable to quarantine the disease.
Now volunteers in are spreading out across Minnesota and several other states, collecting seeds which may be needed to restore the white, green, and black ash species if the current epidemic destroys the currently standing trees. Some of the seeds will be stored in the National Plant Germplasm System, a depository maintained by the Agriculture Department and at the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation. Others will be retained by Native American tribal authorities.
A map showing states and Canadian provinces at risk, with links to sources of local assistance, is available at the Emerald Ash Borer website.
Further details on seed preservation are available in a story written by Bill McAuliffe for the Star Tribune.