Forest Insect and Disease Newsletter

Minnesota's Forest Pest First Detector Program

image: Forest detector brochure2011 marked the fourth year of Forest Pest First Detector workshops taught by the award-winning Minnesota Forest Pest First Detector training team, comprised of representatives from University of Minnesota Extension external link (UMnExt), the Minnesota Department of Agriculture external link (MDA), and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Minnesota is the first state to use the National Plant Diagnostic Network external link (NPDN) to focus on detecting forest pests. Using a step-by-step process to identify signs and symptoms of invasive forest pests, the first year of workshops focused on identifying and reporting infestations of emerald ash borer (EAB). While continuing to emphasize EAB, training in subsequent years expanded its focus to other forest pests such as gypsy moth, bur oak blight, Asian long-horned beetle, thousand cankers disease, and mountain pine beetle.

UMnExt houses the database of Minnesota's First Detectors and directs calls from concerned citizens who think they've spotted a pest to a trained Minnesota First Detector. The First Detector can then determine if the call warrants a site visit. In addition, Minnesota First Detectors can contact the MDA themselves using the MDA's Arrest-the-Pest hotline external link at the first sign or symptom of EAB or other forest pests.

In the past three years, UMnExt referred 463 out of 1,229 calls regarding potential forest pests to First Detectors. In 2010, First Detectors volunteered 1,316 hours and traveled 7,733 miles, which resulted in a total public value of nearly $29,000. The discovery of EAB by a tree care worker in St. Paul in May, 2009 was a result of First Detector training, demonstrating the value of the Forest Pest First Detector program.

These popular workshops attracted 203 participants in 2011. Since 2008, 411 volunteers from 66 out of 87 Minnesota counties have committed to becoming First Detectors. Volunteers from Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota have also attended the workshops.

In recognition of their efforts, in 2010 the First Detector team won five awards:

  1. Dean's Distinguished Team Award, University of Minnesota Extension Dean's Office
  2. Silver Award, Innovative Program, Association of Natural Resources Extension Professionals (ANREP)
  3. Silver Award, Outstanding Team, ANREP
  4. Innovation Award, Minnesota Association of Extension Professionals
  5. Excellence in Natural Resources Programming, Minnesota Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals

In 2011, the team was honored with the NPDN Outstanding First Detector Educational Training Award external link.