About the Ash Utilization Options Project

Tree crown die back, showing infestation by Emerald Ash Borer.

Tree crown die back, showing infestation by Emerald Ash.

Photo Courtesy Michigan Department of Agriculture.

The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is a destructive, exotic pest of ash (Fraxinus species) in the United States. Ash is an economically important tree species in the eastern U.S. An EAB infestation is underway in southeastern Michigan and significant ash mortality is occurring.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) is planning to remove dead, dying and healthy ash within a 2,500 square mile area in order to eradicate this pest. As a result of this eradication process, significant volumes of wood fiber will be created. MDA is operating ash disposal sites where infested and non-infested ash is processed to eliminate potential breeding and feeding material for EAB. Ash that does not reach a value-added market will be sent to a landfill.

There are several existing markets for material harvested during the eradication process such as industrial biomass fuel and landfill cover. Smaller markets exist for commercial landscape mulch, wood pulp chips and solid wood products. New markets may also be available for such products as chips for sewage sludge composting, or as feedstock for creation of pyrolysis oils (used as heating oil, a carrier for creosote treating, or as a feedstock for the production of various wood chemicals).

The Southeast Michigan RC&D Council was approached by the USDA Forest Service Economic Action Program to implement a grant to show there can be some economic benefit from the EAB problem and demonstrate markets for the removed wood material. The Council submitted a $420,000 grant proposal to the Forest Service in the fall of 2003, and the proposal was approved for funding shortly thereafter.

The short-term goal of this proposal is to demonstrate how the woody material (logs, limbs and bark) created in implementing the quarantine can be recycled into products, thus reducing the amount of material requiring disposal. This will reduce local disposal costs and in turn reduce the costs of quarantine implementation.

The long-range goal is to develop local infrastructure that enables the recycling of all woody material created in caring for the urban and suburban forests of the region. Developing this system will create both economic and environmental benefits in the region.

A project of the Southeast MI RC&D

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Targeting Michigan's core emerald ash borer infestation area of Lenawee, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair, Washtenaw, and Wayne Counties.