Wednesday, November 21, 2018

MORRISTOWN, NJ:  The landscape in Morris County is about to change significantly, even to the unsuspecting eye. The Emerald Ash Borer  (EAB) a non-native beetle, is rapidly and aggressively spreading since 2002, killing hundreds of millions of ash trees in North America and New Jersey. Morris County, which has the densest population of ash trees in the state, is also seeing the effects of EAB to its ash trees. It is considered to be the most destructive insect ever to invade the United States.

Nothing has proven effective in eradicating EAB. Based on research of EAB infestations in the mid-west, experts predict a 99% mortality rate for the State’s ash trees. To prepare and manage for this threat, the Morris County Park Commission (MCPC), which currently protects and maintains 20,197 acres at 38 distinct sites, including 244.3 miles of trails, adopted an EAB Response Plan earlier this year. As part of this plan, the MCPC will preemptively remove ash trees from high-use areas of the park system that will eventually pose a safety hazard to the public as they die from the impacts of EAB. High-use areas are locations where users are likely to be stationary for prolonged periods of time, paved or improved trails, and park roadways. All ash trees within 50 feet of the edge of these high-use areas have been inventoried with a numbered aluminum tag to estimate the significance of the potential tree loss. Taking no action would result in high safety risks to over 3.5 million annual visitors, as well as significantly higher removal costs. The Response Plan, in addition to managing ash trees for public safety, critical infrastructure protection, and preservation of select-high value trees, includes replanting trees in critical areas to offset the impact of ash tree loss.

The initial phase of a long-term effort to remove infected Ash trees from high hazard areas Morris County Parks is scheduled to take place along sections of Patriots’ Path in Morristown and Morris Township, and at both Fosterfields Living Historical Farm and The Frelinghuysen Arboretum between December 2018 and March 2019. According to Dave Helmer, Executive Director of the Morris County Park Commission, “Over 12,000 ash trees to date have been inventoried in high-use areas throughout the Morris County Park System. Our first priority is the public safety and as such, the Ash trees are being prioritized for removal based upon their proximity to known EAB infestations.”  He continued, “As we launch the initial removal program, we will begin posting the locations and timeframes to keep the public aware and avoid as much inconvenience as possible.”

Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), a highly destructive insect from Asia, was detected in Morris County in 2017. The EAB is a small, metallic green, wood-boring beetle whose larvae feed on the inner bark of ash trees, ultimately disrupting the tree’s ability to transport nutrients causing the tree’s eventual decline and within 4 to 5 years, cause its death. Since its discovery in Michigan in 2002, EAB has caused the deaths of hundreds of millions of ash trees in North America. Currently, EAB has been confirmed in 71 municipalities throughout New Jersey, including Morristown, Morris Township, Chester Township, Hanover Township, Randolph Township, and Chatham Township., and eventually effect every town.

In addition to tree removal, the MCPC is working with the NJ Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Agriculture Animal Plant Health Inspection Service to release biocontrol agents in attempts to control EAB. Several species of stingless wasps from Asia that attack EAB larvae and/or eggs are being used for this purpose. Wasps do not pose any risks to people, pets, or native insects.

Information on the tree removal locations and dates, which will effect park and trail closures, as well as additional information can be found on

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