PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Oregon is up against a tiny opponent that could cause massive ecological damage: the emerald ash borer. 

The invasive insect, which is considered the most destructive forest pest in North America, was discovered in Forest Grove on June 30. It was the first discovery of the eastern ash borer on the west coast. 

Its arrival is something agriculture and forestry experts have been anticipating for years. The shiny green beetle, native to Eastern Asia, was found in Michigan in 2002. Since then, it’s been spreading across the country, leaving stands of dead ash trees wherever it goes. 

“At least five ash species native to the central U.S. have become critically endangered as EAB spreads across the country killing hundreds of millions of urban and wild ash trees,” said Wyatt Williams, the Oregon Department of Forestry’s invasive species specialist. 

He said the invasive insect has spread to 35 states and five Canadian provinces. 

In Oregon, the native Oregon ash tree is at risk. 

Williams said the Oregon ash plays an important role in the environment and its loss could have a greater effect on other plants and animals. The tree is commonly found along streams and wetlands. It shades water, keeping it cooler for fish, and its roots stabilize stream banks and reduce erosion. 

“Losing it will likely have a huge impact on those ecosystems,” Williams said. 

Knowing that the emerald ash borer would likely make its way to Oregon eventually, the Oregon Department of Forestry has been collecting seeds from Oregon ash trees across the state. The department’s goal is to try and preserve as much of the tree’s genetic diversity as possible before it’s lost.

Researchers will test the seeds to see if any have resistance to eastern ash borers and if so, they might be able to breed into local strains and replant them along streambanks. 

There are steps the public can take to help control the spread of the emerald ash borer. 

The first is to report any and all sightings of the beetle. The emerald ash borer is about a half-inch long and an eighth of an inch wide. It’s known for its metallic, shiny green color. Anyone who sees an emerald ash borer should make a report of it online at the Oregon Invasive Species Council Hotline

The Oregon Department of Forestry also recommends towns remove ash trees from their list of approved street trees. 

Officials recommend planting resistant species in place of the ash trees — like Oregon white oak, incense cedar and Chinese pistache. 

The Oregon Department of Agriculture has more information on its website about the emerald ash borer.