As ash borer barrels through North American forests, scientists and tribes team up to make a stand

When Butch Jacobs steps into the woods in search of basket making materials, he does not have a specific type of forest or black ash tree in mind, but he knows it when he sees it.

“It’s a unique skill set that cannot necessarily be taught. Some people just have it,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs, a member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, is one of few remaining basket-tree harvesters in Maine—a longstanding tradition that stretches back to before Europeans arrived on North American shores. Now, the custom faces a threat that may devastate the trees that harvesters like Jacobs seek.

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