Buy It Where You Burn It: Protecting our Ash Trees

By Rachel Öltjenbruns


By now, most residents in South Dakota are aware that there are invasive species threatening the health and well-being of our native trees and forests. The most deadly plagues include the emerald ash borer, mountain pine beetle, the gypsy moth, and the virus known as Thousand Cankers disease. It is absolutely critical to prevent the spread of these pests for as long as possible, due to the significant economic impact from these losses. One of the most important ways to prevent the introduction of the EAB is to stop the spread of firewood across state borders. As the program states, “buy it where you burn it!” Firewood should be kept local; even the spread of firewood within state boundaries poses a risk to forest health.


South Dakota has great value invested in our ash trees; along with their obvious aesthetic qualities, they provide the structure for thousands of urban and rural shelter belts. Emerald ash borers originated in Asia and probably arrived in the United States on solid wood packing material carried in cargo ships or airplanes. The beetle was discovered in Michigan in 2002 and, since then, has spread to over twenty states and regions throughout the northeastern United States and southern Canada. Its spread is likely linked to the movement of infested firewood and nursery stock. The larvae of the beetle have killed tens of millions of ash trees already by stopping the trees’ ability to transport water and nutrients. There is no species of ash that is safe from this invasive species.

The best initial step to take at your residence or in your community is to identify where all ash trees are located. Recognizing the emerald ash borer is also vital: the adults are slender, green metallic beetles about 1/2 inch long. The adult lays eggs on the trunks of ash trees in the summer months. In the fall, the eggs hatch and become larvae that bore into the tree, feasting on the tree’s cambium layer, thereby cutting off the tree’s nutrient supply, which ultimately causes the tree’s decline. The following signs or symptoms are indicators of the EAB’s presence:

  1. D-shaped exit holes
  2. Crown dieback
  3. Bark cracks & splitting
  4. Water sprouts/suckering
  5. Serpentine galleries
  6. Excessive woodpecker activity

If you suspect EAB infestation, contact the South Dakota Division of Resource Conservation & Forestry.

Field Offices:

Hot Springs 605.745.5820

Huron 605.353.7187

Lead 605.584.2300

Mitchell 605.995.8189

Rapid City 800.275.4954

Sioux Falls 605.362.2830

Watertown 605.882.5367

Pierre 605.773.3623

For further questions or information, visit the following sites:


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