By Beth Lawrence
Thanks to an exotic pest, a number of ash trees along Jackson County Greenway have been cut down and reduced to firewood.
Twenty-three trees were recently felled, because they were infested with Emerald Ash borers. The metallic green bug is a beetle that bores its way under the bark and into the wood of a tree, eventually killing it.
The infested trees were flagged by N.C. Forest Service workers, who notified to the Jackson County Parks and Recreation Department to coordinate removal in the hope of containing an outbreak of the invasive pests.
“The way they were positioned, they were a threat to fall across the Greenway, so the Forest Service cut them down as part of a training exercise,” said Barney Cagle of the Parks and Recreation Department.
The trees will become heating fuel this winter for older residents of Jackson County.
The downed trees were donated to Project FIRE ─ Fuel Intervention For Rural Elderly, Cagle said.
Project FIRE is a service of the Jackson County Department on Aging and Cullowhee United Methodist Church. The two groups coordinate to cut, split and deliver firewood to aging residents who use wood heating systems.
“We appreciate donations for this project. We depend on that to have firewood to donate to the elderly,” said Eddie Wells, executive director of the Department on Aging.
Project FIRE delivered 285 loads of wood to residents 55 and older during the 2018-19 fall and winter seasons.
The worst damage to trees occurs when adults lay eggs in trees’ bark, according to information from the N.C. Forest Service. Hatched larvae chew through the bark and eat the tissues of the tree that carry nutrients. The pests feed on every species of white fringe trees.
The beetle has infested North Carolina and neighboring states Tennessee and Virginia.
A statewide quarantine was enacted in September 2015.
Under the quarantine, no part of an infected tree or the borer itself can be removed from a quarantined area to an area not under quarantine.
Firewood refers to wood that is cut to less than 4 feet in length. With a statewide quarantine in place, these materials may move freely within the state, but cannot be moved into adjacent states’ non-quarantined areas.
The Forest Service recommends using only local or treated firewood to help contain the spread of invasive species of insects.