Mi’kmaq communities watch beetle threatening culturally significant ash
New Brunswick’s Mi’kmaq communities are on the lookout this summer for an invasive beetle that threatens a tree species important to Mi’kmaq culture and economy.
Teams from each of the province’s nine Mi’kmaw communities began setting traps for the presence of the emerald ash borer last week, said Stephen Ginnish, a forester and natural resources coordinator for Mi’gmawe ‘. l Tplu’taqnn Inc..
“We have now set traps in the community and hopefully we won’t find any beetles, but at least now we’re part of the surveillance system,” Ginnish said.
The emerald ash borer was first introduced to Canada in 2002 and has since decimated ash populations in Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, before being detected in New Brunswick, where it was found in Edmundston in 2018. It has since been found in Oromocto, Moncton. and Fredericton.
Important for spirituality, the arts, the economy
Ginnish said he has been concerned for 20 years that the beetle is reaching New Brunswick forests and destroying black and white ash trees, which are used for ceremonies and to make baskets, sculptures and other items. mi’kmaw arts and crafts.
“We have a lot of basket weavers and they are really worried… about the survival of the ash, although we know this particular beetle will most likely eliminate it because there really is no defense for it yet.”
Ginnish said he sees the arrival of the emerald ash borer in the province as another lasting effect of colonization that has impacted the way of life of First Nations communities.
Now, he said, the First Nation is considering options, such as cold storage of ash seeds so that the species can be reintroduced to the territory once the emerald ash borer destroys trees that now stand.
“Right now, this is the perception that it will… disappear, and our future generations will not know what it is like to be part of a custom or economy where black ash trees were used. to feed our community. “
Monitoring new areas in NB this summer
Mi’kmaw communities are just a few of the areas that are being monitored for the first time this year, said Ron Neville, pest investigation biologist at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
In addition to these areas of northeastern New Brunswick, the southern and southwestern regions, particularly around Saint John, are also being monitored for the emerald ash borer, he said. declared.
“We have focused our surveillance in parts of the province where the [emerald ash borer] is not known, ”Neville said of this summer’s monitoring program.
“So, you know, counties like Restigouche, Northumberland, Gloucester and Kent – we have traps in those counties.
“And then we also focus on trapping in the southwest around Saint John and also in Charlotte County.”
No tickets recently for moving firewood
Neville said the main way to track down the beetle is by hanging traps in trees in late June and early July and checking them in late July.
Neville said the emerald ash borer usually enters new areas when people move objects such as firewood, not knowing they have been infested with the insect.
According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, moving firewood from places where regulated pests have been found can be a violation of the Plant Protection Act, with penalties of up to $ 50,000. However, no tickets have been issued for moving firewood to New Brunswick since 2019, a spokesperson for the agency said.
Neville said enforcement can be difficult, so the inspection agency relied more on education through awareness campaigns.
“I know that [the campaigns] have an effect. I know people are more aware of these things now than they’ve ever been, which I think is a positive thing. “
During this time, tools are used in an attempt to protect the trees or slow the spread of the emerald ash borer.
The City of Fredericton, for example, has inoculated ash trees against the emerald ash borer by injecting the trees with a pesticide called TreeAzin.
And in Edmundston, between 500 and 1,000 wasp mites were released in the area in the summer of 2019. Wasps, harmless to humans, feed on the eggs and larvae of the emerald ash borer.
Despite these efforts, Neville said, there are no quick fixes to getting rid of the emerald ash borer, and for now, these measures are only slowing the spread.
“Unfortunately, there isn’t, you know, a really effective strategy or mechanism to really protect us from this pest, and that’s why it’s really important to take steps to try and slow down its spread because that … gives scientists more time to develop these strategies and hopefully find a way to be more successful on the beetle in the future. “