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Ash trees in Wisconsin coming down fast in race against deadly bug

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Posted at 12:40 PM, May 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-26 15:40:17-04

WHITEFISH BAY, Wisc. — It might seem extreme, but a lot of communities are cutting down healthy-looking trees.

Those trees are the target of a very hungry bug.

Nathan Schuettpelz oversees the emerald ash borer program for Whitefish Bay.

His company triages treats, and removes trees that look like breakfast for a bug born to kill.

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"Emerald ash borer, being in the state of Wisconsin, doesn't allow you to choose between keeping or removing your tree. It's gotta go," Schuettpelz said.

Emerald ash borer is an invasive beetle from Asia.

It's been in Wisconsin since 2008 and has been found in 52 of the state’s 72 counties.

The best estimate: 50 million trees killed by these beetles across the Midwest.

While a few of the most healthy ash trees in a community are treated and monitored, most "street trees" are coming down fast.

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In Whitefish Bay alone, more than 4,000 ash trees were marked for removal.

In Milwaukee, more than 15,000 properties have ash trees at risk.

The key now is planting trees that are hearty and diverse.

20 different species will replace the 4,000 ash trees in Whitefish Bay.

This is a reason to hope a culling like this never has to happen again.

"Now we're looking at 70 different tree species that are actively growing, diversifying the urban forest. Kind of the village hedging its bets against any potential future pest," Schuettpelz said.

Steve Chamraz at TMJ4 first reported this story.