- Associated Press - Sunday, May 11, 2014

SHILOH, Ohio (AP) - A tree-eating beetle has destroyed hundreds of ash trees in a northern Ohio nature preserve, state officials say.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has cut down some of the ash trees infested with the emerald ash borer in the Fowler Woods State Nature Preserve. But officials decided to let many dead or dying trees in the preserve east of Shiloh in Richland County fall down naturally, the Mansfield News Journal (https://ohne.ws/1nxQVte) reported.

“Cutting down all those towering trees could change the feel of the area,” said Eileen Corson, a spokeswoman for the state department.

The ash borer devastation already has changed the look of the preserve. Many ash trees have been cut down, leaving the woods littered with scattered segments of ash trunk. That, in turn, has opened new areas of the typically shaded forest to sunlight.

The department also has closed most of a popular 1.2-mile trail in the preserve to prevent safety hazards from falling tree trunks and limbs and says the disruptions could continue at the 168-acre preserve for years.

But Corson said forestry officials aren’t concerned about the emerald ash borer spreading further in the preserve or onto adjacent property.

“It’s already moved through that area and is now in Columbus,” she said.

The beetle that arrived in Ohio 10 years ago - a year after appearing in southeastern Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario - has a limited diet. It eats the inner bark of ash trees, but doesn’t finish until the tree is dead.

The white ash, the best-known ash species in Ohio, can grow to 80 feet high and normally had a lifespan of 260 years. But foresters don’t expect the trees to survive Ohio’s ash borer infestation.

Fowler Woods, which became one of the first nature preserves in Ohio in 1971, is home to 58 tree and shrub species and 212 different kinds of ferns and wildflowers.

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