- Associated Press - Thursday, June 9, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska officials are trying to limit the spread of the emerald ash borer after the invasive insect that kills ash trees was discovered in Omaha.

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture issued a quarantine to prevent ash nursery stock from leaving the area, and a state senator announced Wednesday she will seek a state funding increase for a grant program to help remove and replace trees.

Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, of Lincoln, introduced a bill last year that would have provided $3 million a year for the Nebraska Tree Recovery Program, which helps communities remove and replace trees on public lands that have been severely damaged by weather.

“The emerald ash borer is a problem that will affect our whole state and, therefore, must be addressed jointly by the state of Nebraska and by our local communities,” Pansing Brooks said.

The grant program was created in 1994 but hasn’t been funded for more than a decade. Pansing Brooks has said she hopes to see it applied to trees threatened by the beetle and those that need to be removed once they die.

The Agriculture Department said the beetle was found in a Pulaski Park tree in Omaha. With Nebraska added to the list, there are now 27 states where the pest has been confirmed since 2002.

Department Director Greg Ibach has said the beetle’s presence in the state is not a surprise considering nearby states that already have infestations, including Iowa, Missouri and Kansas.

The insects are native to Asia and were first spotted in the U.S. in 2002, when they showed up in the Detroit area. Once infected, trees typically die within five years, though healthy trees can be treated to resist the bug.

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