Managing Town Forests for Emerald Ash Borer

The emerald ash borer (EAB), an invasive pest that attacks all species of North American ash trees, was first confirmed in Vermont in 2018. Already present in 35 other states, EAB will likely kill 99% of ash trees in our urban landscapes and forests, but the devastation will not be uniform and synchronous across the landscape. Experimental research has found that removal of ash from a forest does not prevent the spread of EAB; instead, forests should be managed to preserve ash trees as a component of a healthy forest.

While VT UCF recommends that municipalities either treat with insecticide or remove any ash trees that could pose a risk to people or property in public rights-of-way and parks, a different approach is recommended when it comes to managing ash in forests. In forests, landowners, foresters, and land managers should consider the “big picture,” in making management decisions that support the health of the forest as a whole rather than just trying to capture the current value of ash or focusing on trying to control the pest.

Vermont’s Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation (FPR) promotes three goals for managing forestlands in the context of EAB. They are:

  1. maintain ash as a component of the forest;
  2. promote a diverse mix of native species; and
  3. conserve the economic value of ash (a.k.a. don’t panic!).

Details on each of these three goals are available in FPR’s publication: Ash Management Guidance for Forest Managers. For up-to-date information about EAB and its status in Vermont, visit


Although your town may not have a confirmed infestation of EAB yet, now is the time to plan how you will manage your town forest in the context of EAB. The closer your town forest is to an infested or high-risk area, the more urgent it is to develop an EAB management plan. Planning in advance of EAB infestation will afford greater flexibility in response once EAB is confirmed in your town or town forest.

Check the Vermont Department of Forest, Parks & Recreation map of current confirmed EAB infestations. Please note that this map only indicates sites where EAB infestations have been previously confirmed; the insect may be more widespread than is indicated on this map. The closer your town forest is to a red (confirmed infested) area or yellow (high-risk) area, the sooner your town should act to develop and implement an EAB management plan for your town forest.

The following list of considerations is a framework for preparing for EAB in town forests. The process and questions are designed to be flexible and can be adapted to meet your community’s needs and capacity. Your town may not need to address every consideration or may choose to go through them in a different order.

  1. Organize a Team for Action
  2. Inform and Involve the Community in Planning
  3. Assess Existing Plans and Policies
  4. Assess Existing Ash Trees
  5. Monitor Annually for Emerald Ash Borer
  6. Make a Plan for Potentially Hazardous Trees
  7. Develop Your Town Forest EAB Plan
  8. Determine Your Budget and Timeline
  9. Present Draft Managment Plan to Community
  10. Implement the Plan and Share Your Experience