Ottawa’s problem with the emerald ash borer is in the “very early stages,” the city’s manager of forestry said yesterday.

In a technical briefing session for city councillors and their staff, David Barkley said the city is implementing a strategy to slow the spread of the insect as well as a tree planting initiative and “reaching out to the community to get healthy trees into neighbourhoods.”

The city is also spearheading a task force that includes government agencies to coordinate impact reduction efforts in Ottawa and Gatineau, Barkley said.

An invasive, non-native wood-boring beetle that kills all species of ash trees, the insect was discovered in Ottawa last July.

City officials said the beetle represents a serious problem for Ottawa, since ash trees make up 25 per cent of the forest cover in the area. There are 75,000 ash trees in city streets and parks.

The strategy being implemented is designed to contain the infestation, dispose of infested material and preserve and renew both urban and rural forests.

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