Emerald ash borer speeds battlefield restoration

The Shenandoah Valley Battlefield Foundation is looking to complete part of its largest ever restoration efforts sooner than expected due to a tiny beetle.

Removal efforts of tree lines at the Third Winchester battlefield will be “accelerated” because of the presence of the emerald ash borer.

“We first noticed it in the fall. A lot of the ash trees were losing their bark,” said Dan Reinhart, resource management specialist for the foundation.

Reinhart noted that while they did not have a set date for removal of the trees, the presence of the beetle changed their timeline to “now.”

Emerald ash borers are an invasive, metallic green-colored species of beetle believed to have entered America through wood packing material, according to emeraldashborer.info. As the name suggests, the beetle attacks ash trees and have destroyed millions of trees since being discerned in near Detroit, Michigan, in 2002.

The website for Hungry Pests — an extension of the U.S. Department of Agriculture — notes that emerald ash borers are dangerous, in part, because “there is no known treatment for … infestations — trees must be felled and the wood disposed of.”

The foundation was already looking into removing trees that were not present at the time of the battle that took place there on Sept. 19, 1864.

Reinhart said the removal “is not going to be too much of an issue” in regards to potential closings.

“The battlefield will stay open to the public, but certain trails will close for the tree removal,” Reinhart said.

The removal of the trees, Reinhart said, is part of the battlefield restoration efforts as well as to prevent the spread of the emerald ash borer.

Reinhart noted that, due to having to cut the trees down early, the foundation will cut the original $40,000 cost of removal in half. In addition, and due to the excess wood, Reinhart said the removal will “fund the fencing project” by eliminating additional costs.

Reinhart also said the crews will be allowed to “clear any dead trees … that could endanger people.”

The trees are expected to be removed within the next three months, but completion will largely depend on weather, Reinhart said. “If it’s raining, we’re not going to allow [the crews] in there.”

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com