The Emerald Ash Borer is likely in Nebraska, according to the Nebraska Forest Service.
Experts say it is only a matter of time before ash trees start dying from the small beetle.
State Forester Scott Josiah wants lawmakers to approve $3 million annually for a grant program to help communities remove the trees.
“It’s really important to slow the spread as quickly as we can and be proactive to remove trees ahead of time or stay on top of this as it does begin to show in Nebraska to keep the cost down for communities,” Josiah says. “Otherwise, it’s just going to cost a lot more.”
He estimates Nebraska communities will need about $275 million to respond to Emerald Ash Borer.
The bill (LB461) before the Appropriations Committee would establish a 50-50 matching grant program to help the municipalities affected.
“It’s a really sneaky insect. It kind of hangs around in the tops of trees for four, five years before it’s detected,” Josiah says. “Then, once you do find it, the populations have already built to a point where they explode in an exponential way, and then within the next six, seven, eight years, most of your trees die.”
Josiah says there are approximately 44 million ash trees in Nebraska with about one million of them in public parks and right-of-ways, which will pose a significant risk to people and property.
“And it’s really hard to take them down once they’ve started to decline,” he says, “because they’re just fragile and so it’s a real danger to the tree workers.”