Beetle threatens Colorado's urban forest

DENVER - Now is the time of year that many residents choose to spruce up their yards. But they should also be researching an insect that threatens the beauty of those yards.

"It is set up to be what they're calling the single most destructive pest of urban forests in Denver history," said Denver City Forester Rob Davis.

The emerald ash borer has made its way to Colorado. The beetle feeds on ash trees and has killed millions across the country so far. Experts think it originated in Asia and came to the United States in early 2000 when it was discovered in Detroit.

"Most people believe it came over in packing material," said Davis. "The thing about the beetles is they go through their breeding process and live deep within woods as lava. And then you can move that wood and they emerge as adults."

The emerald ash borer is one of few federally-regulated pests. Last fall, federal authorities confirmed the beetle's presence in Boulder County. State officials quarantined a five-mile area around where the beetle was discovered.

"You can't move any hard wood or firewood outside of that quarantine," said Davis. "You can't move ash trees in and out."

The beetle has not been found in Denver. And city officials say they are taking preventative measures already.

"It's a little bit of a management strategy in the beginning. What are the trees we're going to replace? What are the trees we want to preserve? And what are the trees we want to treat once the emerald ash borer is closer," said Davis, noting that the city has already begun testing tree bark for signs of the beetle.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, 15 percent of Denver's 2.2 million trees are ash trees. Many of them are on private property. Experts say it's up to individual owners to decide whether to remove trees. The Colorado Department of Agriculture created a website to help residents determine their proximity to the beetle in order to make a decision about their own trees.

Davis says people who do decide to remove trees should only work with licensed arborist contractors. They should also get several opinions and be fully informed on all of their options, noting that cutting down a tree is not always the only option.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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