Due to the devastating invasion of the introduced pest Emerald Ash Borer, Fraxinus, spp., Ash Trees in the Great Lakes Region are disappearing in record numbers and potentially from the landscape across the US as we know it. Because of this potential disaster, a non-funded Cooperative Agreement has been entered into between the United State Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service, the United State Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service - Rose Lake Plant Materials Center and the United State Department of Agriculture, Forest Service.
Through this Agreement, the three agencies will work together to collect and store ash seed from across the US. Ash seed collected from across the Great Lakes Region and the US will be stored at the National Center for Genetic Resource Preservation in Ft. Collins, CO for future use. The goal is to secure seed over the next several yeas through voluntary seed collections by the public.
Volunteers will send their collected seed to the Rose Lake Plant Materials Center for visual inspection and documentation of receipt of the seed. Seed that meets visual criteria is then forwarded to the Forest Service in Macon, GA for further quality determinations by X-ray. The seed is returned to the PMC and those collections that meet 50% sound seed requirements are then labeled and forwarded to Colorado for long term storage.
Tribes are specifically mentioned in the Agreement because of the NRCS-PMC's previous assistance to tribes with their culturally significant plants. Black ash is specifically important to tribes because of its use by tribes in basket making. Tribes collect seed and send the seed to the Rose Lake PMC for logging into the system and visual analysis. Seed collected by a tribe remains the property of the collecting tribe and is stored in Fort Collins as tribal seed. Tribes may select to have some of the seed they collected designated to be placed in the general collection as well as in their individual collections. A tribe just needs to indicate on the collection form whether some of the seed may be designated for the general collection along with their tribal collection.
Some tribal collections already received are two samples each from the Bay Mills Indian Community (MI) and the Sault St. Marie Tribe (MI), both in 2005. In 2006 the Bay Mills Indian Community (MI) submitted 1 sample, the Grand Taverse Band (MI) submitted 6 samples, and the Fon du Lac Tribe (MN) submitted 1 sample. All samples include black, green and white ash collections.
A web site, www.ashseed.org, has been established by the Rose Lake PMC to allow for interested parties to glean current information. By going to this site one will be able to find identification information and collection information. Documentation of the collection is one of the most important parts of the collection process. Completion of the collection form and its inclusion in the shipment of seed to the PMC is "have to do it" issue. Seed is virtually impossible to identify without the completed collection form that accompanies the collection.
It is important for states across the country to immediately begin establishing seed collection programs. If they wait too long, they will not have any ash trees left from which to collect seed.
There are ash seed collection posters available which can be modified to include local logos or state agencies. This may help secure local ownership and involvement to collect seed. Identification and documentation information is also available on the website. The posters may also be modified to include and/or delete ash trees.
The four main species of interest in the Great Lakes Region are: Fraxinus nigra Marsh., Black Ash; Fraxinus quadrangulata, Blue Ash; Fraxinus pennsylvanica Marsh, Green Ash; and Fraxinus Americana, L. White Ash. Other ash species may also be important to your area or portions of the country.
The National Ash Tree Seed Collection Initiative will run for a minimum of 6 years, but may run longer depending on the number of collections received.
By Dave Burgdorf, Plant Materials Specialist
USDA-NRCS Rose Lake Plant Materials Center
East Lansing, Michigan