FARGO - The emerald ash borer is getting closer to North Dakota.

That's according to news from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which reports it has found the pest in Winnipeg.

"Winnipeg is only a short 65 miles north of the North Dakota border," North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said in a written statement.

"Even though there are additional precautions in place for movement of regulated articles across the international border, it is still more important than ever for North Dakotans to take action to prevent it from coming here," Goehring added.

The emerald ash borer only attacks true ash trees.

Its larvae feed under the bark, disrupting the movement of water and nutrients, which kill the tree within a few years.

Hundreds of millions of ash trees in the United States and Canada have been killed by the inspect over the past decade.

According to the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, the state has more than 92 million ash trees, making up 48 percent of trees along streets and in city parks.

In Fargo, about 20 percent of the Fargo Park District's approximately 4,000 trees and about 28 percent of all trees in Fargo are ash trees, according to Sam DeMarais, a Fargo Parks forester.

DeMarais said the news from Canada confirms that emerald ash borers are inching closing from the north and the east.

He said while some people believe the borer may already be in the Fargo-Moorhead area, no conclusive evidence has been found.

DeMarais said one thing foresters watch for around ash trees is a woodpecker, because it may be a sign the tree has borers.

When a borer does invade a tree, it can take four years before the tree begins showing signs of trouble, DeMarais said, adding that the Park District has a plan in place for when emerald ash borers are detected within about 20 miles of Fargo.

When that happens, DeMarais said there is a pesticide that can be injected into trees which helps them fight off borers.

In the meantime, he said both the Park District and the city have been identifying unhealthy ash trees for removal, as well as ash trees that are in locations where removal has beneficial side effects, including trees that encroach on wires and other fixtures.

Moving firewood around is the primary means by which the emerald ash borer is spread, according to DeMarais, who added it is believed the pest originally landed in the United States from Asia via a shipping crate and a Great Lakes port.

North Dakota State Forester Larry Kotchman advised that people should buy firewood from local sources and anyone coming to North Dakota from out of state is asked to not bring firewood with them.

State officials are also reminding the public that moving uncertified firewood out of areas under quarantine for emerald ash borers is a federal offense.

DeMarais said Park District and city officials plan to get together soon to discuss how they would remove the large amount of wood chips that would be generated if a sizeable tree removal program was begun.

Recently, the city of Fargo teamed with a company that uses reclaimed wood as a means of disposing of ash trees the city removed for various reasons.

DeMarais said many of the area's ash trees were planted as replacements for elm trees decimated by Dutch Elm Disease.

He said it is wise for communities to diversity their tree populations, as threats may arise with any type of tree.