The emerald ash borer continued to spread across southern Wisconsin this year, while tax dollars to fight the tree-killing invasive beetle were cut back.
The state Agriculture Department says the ash borer has been found in four or five new counties this year, bringing the total to 13. A quarantine that affects some businesses and bans the movement of hardwood firewood to non-quarantine areas now affects 15 Wisconsin counties. The spread of the bug comes amid a large drop in federal funds for detection of the beetle. Brian Kuhn of the Wisconsin Department of Ag, Trade and Consumer Protection says it appears those dollars have gone to other pest control programs, "That's because we don’t have the solutions yet."
Kuhn says there are tools to help communities slow the growth of the ash borer infestation, and extend the life of their ash trees. Dick Rideout of the DNR's urban forestry program says there's that plan in La Crosse to remove hundreds of trees, and more options.
Rideout also sees a growing role for private-sector arborists or homeowners to help spot signs of the ash borer, though he warns early detection is difficult.
Wisconsin officials insist they aren't waving the white flag about defeating the emerald bug. But they say the goal is to try to hold the beetle in check while better kill or control programs are developed.