The Transylvania Times -

Working To Save Pisgah's Ash Trees


Last updated 6/10/2019 at 3:24pm

Public lands biologist Josh Kelly warned last Wednesday that conservation efforts must start now to save North America’s ash trees before they face a fate similar to the American Chestnut tree and disappear from forest landscapes.

Kelly, with local environmental group MountainTrue, gave his presentation, “Save Pisgah’s Ashes,” in the library’s Rogow Room. The presentation was organized by the library in partnership with MountainTrue and the Pisgah Conservancy.

Specifically, the presentation highlighted the dangers infestations of emerald ash borer beetles (EAB) present to woodlands. Kelly emphasized there is still time to save native populations of white, green and Biltmore ash, and that while treatment can be expensive, especially with big trees, removal is even more so.

Not only is removal expensive, dead ash trees are a serious safety hazard around buildings, campsites and roadways as they rot quickly and topple easily. Treatment of a large tree may cost a few hundred dollars, but once the tree is dead and needs to be removed, arborist removal will cost a few thousand.

EABs are small, opalescent green insects that bore squiggle shaped lines into the inner bark of ash trees, damaging the trees’ ability to intake nutrients. The invasive beetle was first discovered near Detroit, Mich., in the early 2000s, and they’ve ravaged ash trees across the Midwest. Only 1 to 5 percent of ash populations in the Midwest have survived the first wave of the beetle infestation. As of 2019, hundreds of millions of ash trees in North America have died.

To date, MountainTrue and the Pisgah Conservancy have saved 100 ash trees in Pisgah National Forest. The two conservation organizations have stepped in during recent years to help the Forest Service manage their workload, as federal funding for conservation and forest management is becoming increasingly insufficient, Kelly said.

Ash trees aren’t as abundant in Western North Carolina like they are across portions of the Midwest and make up less than 1 percent of trees in the area, but there are various groves throughout the region with high concentrations of ash trees. Kelly believes there is hope in saving Transylvania County’s ash trees.

MountainTrue and The Pisagh Conservancy plan to save 1,100 ash trees with their program “Save Pisgah’s Ashes.” Kelly said that trees on private land can be treated inexpensively with a DIY “trenching” method using a pesticide solution mixed with water to treat the soil around the tree’s root system. Kelly and his team of biologists use a more effective and long-lasting, and more expensive, method of injecting pesticide directly into the tree.

Without these methods, the extinction of ash trees in North America present an economic, historical, and cultural loss to North American woodlands, said Kelly.

To find out more about the campaign to “Save Pisgah’s Ashes” and to donate, visit


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