Emerald ash borer could take toll on several native Oregon species

Published: Jul. 12, 2022 at 5:02 PM PDT
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - The arrival of the emerald ash borer in Oregon earlier this summer could mean the loss of many more ash trees.

Ash trees are typically the ones you’ll find hanging over wetlands, streams and tributaries providing cooling for fish like salmon and steelhead. It could mean a very difficult next few years in the state for a variety of species.

Oregon biologists had been fearing the moment of finding the emerald ash borer for years.

On June 30, Dominic Maze, who works with the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, found the first emerald ash borer in Oregon.

“I then asked my children who are five and seven years old, ‘Hey keep an eye out for a little green beetle. Do you guys see one?’” Maze said. “Right as I said that a little green emerald ash borer landed on my son’s hand.”

Maze was picking up his kids from summer camp when he noticed something didn’t look right with the ash trees around him in Forest Grove. Some damage to the canopy was the first sign it might be the emerald ash borer.

The insect had been slowly moving west since first being found in Michigan in 2002.

“We knew it was coming, we didn’t know when,” Maze said. “We were hoping it did not arrive anytime soon, but it is here.”

Maze also serves as the city’s invasive species coordinator. One of his biggest concerns of ash trees dying because of the insect is the shade they provide to cool streams. The streams are home to native salmon and steelhead.

“You get into the Columbia River slough, those Willamette tributaries, that are snaking slowly through rural areas, and really not much else can grow in those areas that can provide shade like Oregon ash,” he said.

The Oregon Department of Forestry has also been preparing for the first sighting in Oregon. Entomologist Christine Buhl said many of us will notice some changes.

“Some key things that ash provide for us are shade for our homes and our streams,” Buhl said. “They also are food for a lot of different insects.”

Buhl wants anyone with an ash tree to keep a close eye on it for signs of stress.

With the history of thousands of trees killed in other states, ODF is preparing for that to happen here.

“(We’re working on) how we’re assisting communities with removing trees and destroying them,” Buhl said. “Regulation on removal and destroying, that’s going to be really expensive.”

Christine Buhl with the Oregon Department of Forestry describes how to identify an ash tree.

Experts say for now, the number of emerald ash borers could stay in small pockets in the state.

Maze said it could still be a few years before it’s a major issue in Portland, but that it could change the complexion of the streams that so many fish live in.

“Without that shade it’s going to heat those streams and heat the Willamette (River) as it goes through Portland.”

You could also find the emerald ash borer in trees in urban areas in Oregon.

To report an emerald ash borer sighting, click here. You can find more information from ODF here.