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CARROLLTON, Ky. (WDRB) -- An invasive species of insects threatens to devastate Carroll County's three million ash trees in General Butler State Park.
Emerald ash borers, which wreak havoc on ash trees, were first identified in the U.S. in 2002. This spring, Kentucky forestry officials found them in General Butler State Park.
"When the emerald ash borers pop up, it's going to hit them all at once. It does it very quickly," said Jody Thompson, a forest health specialist with the Kentucky Division of Forestry.
The state's parks department is hoping to come up with some plan of action in the next two months, which is partly what prompted a public meeting Monday night in hopes of gathering public input. Treating the trees will be costly, but simply watching them die will have a devastating impact on the ash trees.
"The impact on General Butler State Park is going to be substantial," said Elaine Walker, the state's commissioner of parks. "We are in a difficult position of having to watch trees die -- we'll have to make a decision soon."
It's often difficult to see the insects, but you can see the trails they leave behind. Woodpeckers often strip away the bark, revealing tiny squiggly lines that the emerald ash borers leave behind as they eat away at the trees.
"Because the trees are declining so quickly, they are a huge safety concern," Jody Thompson said.
The state doesn't have the funds to treat all the trees, Walker said. Making matters worse, humans transporting firewood from infected areas to regions where the insects don't exist often spreads the pests.
"We know we are going to lose trees. It's a tough decision," Walker said.
The state hopes to make a decision in the next two months. But any effort will likely be to mitigate the problem, instead of eradicating the issue completely.