The discovery of the emerald ash borer just outside the Catskill Park puts the invasive pest closer to the Forest Preserve than it has ever known to have been and raises questions about what state and federal agencies might do if the ash borer were found on state land in either the Catskill or Adirondack parks.
The ash tree killing insect was found in the town of Saugerties in Ulster County on July 15 on private property. Since its discovery in southeastern Michigan in 2002, the emeral ash borer has been responsible for the death and decline of tens of millions of ash trees in the U.S. It has been detected in 14 states and two neighboring Canadian provinces. The first detection of the invasive in New York was in the town of Randolph in Cattaraugus County in June 2009.
The primary way this insect spreads is when firewood and wood products are moved from one place to another.
If the ash tree killing insect were to be found on the Forest Preserve in the Catskills — which is located just miles away or even less — then the DEC would have to make a decision about whether to go into the forest and cut trees, use a different control strategy or perhaps just leave it alone.
The decision made in such a case would influence a future strategy in the Adirondack Park if an invasive pest were found here on Forest Preserve.
The cutting of trees on Forest Preserve is generally not allowed except in management actions such as clearing trails. The DEC and environmental groups say it is also allowed on a limited basis to protect the Forest Preserve in the case of an emergency.
“It all depends on the scale,” said Neil Woodworth, executive director or the Adirondack Mountain Club. “To go in and really cut a great number of trees and build roads to do so might be worse than the infestation. It all depends on the scale. If you can go in and do a quick surgical removal that may very well be within constitutional limits.”
Right now, the DEC isn’t publicly saying how they would deal with an infestation on Forest Preserve.
“Really it depends on the size of an infestation and the specific circumstances around an infestation before (we decide upon what) specific management actions like large-scale cutting of trees or other types of actions would take place,” said DEC spokeswoman Maureen Wren.
The DEC will have to weigh a number of factors in deciding how to react to the problem. It will depend when the pest is found in the Forest Preserve. If it is early in the infestation, it may be reasonable to go in and cut trees before there is an outbreak. That could wind up saving the rest of the nearby ash trees.
If the DEC found the infestation in the later stages, it may be too late to do much.
Where it’s found will also likely play a factor. An infestation miles from roads would potentially be more difficult to battle because of the lack of road infrastructure. Environmental groups may put up a fight if the state put in roads necessary for a wholesale logging operation.
The amount of ash trees in the area could also play a factor.
Another key factor is which invasive is found. The emerald ash borer only effects ash trees but the Asian long horn beetle would kill many species of hardwood trees and be much more devastating to the forest.
Really, though, these invasive pests put the state and federal agencies in unchartered territory and there’s a lot of unknown as to what they will really do if the bugs are ever found on the Forest Preserve.
Emerald Ash Borer
Fact BoxWhat you can do
People are urged to take the following steps to keep EAB from spreading to other areas of the state:
¯Leave all firewood at home — please do not bring it to campgrounds or parks.
¯Get your firewood at the campground or from a local vendor — ask for a receipt or label that has the firewood’s local source.
If you choose to transport firewood within New York:
¯It must have a receipt or label that has the firewood’s source and it must remain within 50 miles of that source.
¯For firewood not purchased (i.e., cut from your own property) you must have a Self-Issued Certificate of Source, and it must be sourced within 50 miles of your destination.
¯Only firewood labeled as meeting New York’s heat treatment standards to kill pests (kiln-dried) may be transported into the state and further than 50 miles from the firewood’s source.
¯Watch for signs of infestation in your ash trees. If you suspect your ash tree could be infested by EAB, go to the DEC website for more information. If damage is consistent with the known symptoms of EAB infestation, report suspected damage to the state by calling 1-866-640-0652.