Extension research on ash management and replacement species is critical to the ecology—and the economy—of Minnesota's northern forest region.
Emerald Ash Borer threatens ecology of Minnesota forests
U research used to develop ash management strategies for landowners
Minnesota boasts the most ash trees in the nation according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), but only after losses caused by emerald ash borer (EAB) knocked Michigan from the top spot. But just as EAB changed that No. 1 position for Michigan, it threatens to destroy many of Minnesota's 975 million ash trees.
The loss of one species—black ash—would change the ecology of Minnesota forests, say Angela Gupta and Julie Miedtke, Extension natural resources educators. "Black ash is a unique species, filling a special niche in the wet northern forest," Miedtke says.
Gupta and Miedtke are working to find new ways to help private woodland owners manage ash trees, which provide unique animal habitats and supply between 30,000 and 40,000 cords of wood each year for paper, firewood, cabinets, furniture and specialty products. About 50 percent of Minnesota's black ash trees grow on private land.
"Trees aren't like corn," says Dave Parent, owner of an Itasca area tree farm. "You plant and wait for years. EAB would change the composition of my forest far into the future. The ongoing research at the University is helping me develop a land-management plan to cope with that threat."
Extension is working cooperatively with the DNR to develop a manual on management strategies for family forest landowners. "It's really great to have researchers and educators working together to provide practical strategies for landowners," says Mike Albers, a DNR forest health specialist.
Extension also reaches loggers through its "Eyes in the Woods" program, which continues this fall in collaboration with the Minnesota Logger Education Program.