BENNINGTON, Vt. – The town of Bennington is planning how it will respond if the invasive beetle, the emerald ash borer, reaches the Vermont community located less than 50 miles from where the pest has been found.

Shelly Stiles of the Bennington County Conservation District said the first step would be to see how many ash trees were on town land and rights of way so the scope of the challenge posed by the possible arrival of the pest can be known.

“We would like people to self-identify as competent naturalists,” Stiles said.

Stiles said volunteers can be trained to fill out forms and do tree counts, but they’d prefer to work with people who can spot an ash tree.

Ash borer larvae have destroyed tens of millions of trees as the beetle moved steadily east from Michigan, where it was first discovered in 2002.

This past year, emerald ash borers have been found in Dalton, Mass., about 30 miles from Bennington, and Voorheesville, N.Y., less than 50 miles from Bennington.

Many states and the U.S. Forest Service have restricted the movement of firewood in an attempt to slow the spread of the ash borer.

Bennington Planning Director Dan Monks told the Bennington Banner the town would be responsible for clearing dead trees from town land.