GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) — The destructive emerald ash borer has been found in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
In a news release sent Thursday, park management stated the beetles were discovered last week in traps at the Sugarlands Visitor Center and in the Greenbrier area — both on the Tennessee side of the 500,000-acre park that lies partly in North Carolina. A U.S. Department of Agriculture entomologist confirmed the discovery.
Park officials are evaluating options for combatting the borer.
"Protecting the park's biodiversity is of the utmost importance," said Superintendent Dale Ditmanson. "We will carefully consider all options available to us before determining the best course of action in dealing with this invasive species."
The insect was first found in Michigan in 2002 and has damaged millions of ash trees as its range spread.
Under USDA guidance, traps were spread along a 100-mile-wide band outside the previously known infested areas.
The park has been at high risk for some time because many park visitors live in counties that were already infested by the beetles.
Smokies biologists have been battling the hemlock wooly adelgid for years. The towering American chestnuts that once dominated the mountain slopes were wiped out by a fungus that killed an estimated 4 billion chestnuts nationally by the 1940s.