A tree massacre is in full swing on Ho-Chunk lands. It’s not a mob of axe wielding lumberjacks, it’s a swarm of green beetles of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) variety. We have known that it was coming for years, now we are dealing with the death the little green beetle is dealing out.

First found in Detroit it has been spreading quickly ever since. Over the past year, the HCN DNR has seen a steep increase in destruction and damage brought by EAB. Black ash trees in the White Otter property are now almost all completely dead. This winter the HCN DNR cut approximately 10 green and white ash trees in Ho-Chunk village. All showed strong evidence of EAB infestation including: severe bark flaking due to woodpecker damage, numerous young sprouts emerging from the tree trunks, and D-shaped exit holes. Two stone-dead, infested ash trees were removed from a tribal elder’s home north of Tomah last summer. EAB was detected in a trap in The Mission last year. HCN DNR helped remove two infested ash trees in La Crosse, as well.

What can be done? Before infestation or in the earliest stages a chemical insecticide can be injected into the trees. This has to be done every two years for the life of the tree, can cost several hundred dollars for treatment, and it is thought to have negative consequences for pollinating insect species. For this reason, HCN DNR has not been providing this service.

HCN DNR will, however, help tribal members remove or take town ash trees near their homes. Infested trees are greatly weakened, and are dangerous to climb. It is very important that if you have ash trees you may need taken down that you let us know as soon as possible so we can do the work safely and efficiently. Please call us at 715-284-2852 to schedule a consultation. If you are unsure if a tree is an ash, take a few picture of the trunk, branch tips and leaves to the HCN Community Forester at [email protected].

If you or a loved one are a basket-maker you need to start harvesting the black ash from all your favorite spots. In a few years there won’t be any left in the area. Maybe not anywhere in Wisconsin. Either pound and store splints for the future or find ways to preserve logs for the long run. It’s “use-it or lose-it” time with the black ash.