State Offering Grants to Replace Trees Killed by Emerald Ash Borer

By Nikoel Hytrek

July 13, 2023

The emerald ash borer has wreaked havoc on Iowa’s ash trees since 2010.

Now, with a grant from the US Department of Agriculture, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has set up a grant program for counties that have been impacted by the invasive insect.

The Community Forestry Grant Program provides reimbursable grants for the purchase and planting of trees that are suitable for Iowa.

The money—$75,000—will be available to state and local governments, schools and volunteer organizations in the 97 Iowa counties that have been impacted.

Applications are due by August 23, and recipients will be reimbursed between $500 and $5,000. Recipients will need to provide a dollar-for-dollar cash match to purchase trees and materials from Iowa businesses.

Qualifying public planting include parks, school grounds, courthouse lawns, public buildings, fairground, cemeteries, libraries and trails.

More information, including application information, can be found here.

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What’s the emerald ash borer?

Emerald ash borers are invasive, metallic-green wood-boring beetles native to Asia.

Adult beetles live outside of ash trees and eat their leaves, but it’s the larvae—which chew through plant tissue underneath the bark—that eventually kills the tree.

As one of the most commonly planted trees in the state, the infestation has had a big impact across Iowa.

The beetles attack trees of various heights, ages and of varying health, and trees can die within two years of an infestation. Tivon Feeley, forest health program leader at the DNR, said the beetle is widespread in the state, and will continue to kill trees for the next several years.

The emerald ash borer was discovered in far northeast Iowa in 2010 and has spread west and south since. The only counties where the beetle hasn’t been found are Emmet and Palo Alto. People are responsible for the spread, according to the DNR.

A map showing where and when emerald ash borers have been found in Iowa

How can I prevent spreading it?

“[Spread is] caused by the inadvertent movement of infested firewood, ash nursery stock, and other ash items,” the DNR says on its website. That’s why the agency encourages people to buy wood where they’ll be burning it to avoid moving wood over long distances.

There are insecticides that work as preventative treatments for healthy trees. Iowans can also reach out to an arborist if they have questions about trees they own. Those professionals can then give recommendations about trees.

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For now, Feeley said, “It will be a new way of life for Iowans as we learn to live with this pest.” The US Forest Service has been researching ash trees resistant to the borer, but so far they’re only moderately resistant, so more research is needed.

Until then, Iowans can replant trees, and the DNR has a list of good alternatives. Feeley noted the DNR also encourages more diversity in tree planting so any future infestations won’t be as devastating.

“I am hopeful that resistant trees can be bred and reintroduced when the borer population is at lower levers,” Feeley said.

Find more information about the emerald ash borer and its impact on Iowa here.


Nikoel Hytrek

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  • Nikoel Hytrek

    Nikoel Hytrek is Iowa Starting Line’s longest-serving reporter. She covers LGBTQ issues, abortion rights and all topics of interest to Iowans. Her biggest goal is to help connect the dots between policy and people’s real lives. If you have story ideas or tips, send them over to [email protected].

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