PORTLAND, Ore. — A beetle species described as the most destructive forest pest in the country has officially been spotted for the first time in Oregon. The emerald ash borer, which is responsible for destroying ash trees along the east coast and Midwest, was seen in Forest Grove last month.
The beetles were discovered twenty years ago in Michigan and have killed more than a million ash trees. Last month’s discovery in Oregon was the first confirmed case of the pest making its way to the west coast.
Unfortunately, when an invasive species is first seen in a new place, that usually means it already has a presence in the region, according to Jenn Cairo, a forester with the City of Portland.
The city has already started taking measures to protect the forests in and around Portland. About three percent of trees in Portland parks are ash trees, Cairo said.
"We’re always trying to keep forests diverse," she said. "We don’t have all ash trees in Portland, because if we did, we would be looking at losing our forests if that was the case."
The Portland Parks and Recreation bureau's Urban Forestry team has been working with the Oregon Department of Forestry for the past several years to try to limit the impact of a potential beetle infestation.
The city removed ash trees from its approved planting lists in 2019 because it was assumed that the beetles would inevitably make their way the region, and probably sooner rather than later.
There have been no confirmed cases of the beetle in Washington so far, according to the City of Vancouver's Urban Forestry team, but staff have been keeping an eye on local ash trees.
More information about the emerald ash borer beetle can be found on the city of Portland's website.