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Purple ribbons highlight ash trees in danger

April 27, 2011
By MIKE LYNCH, News Outdoors Writer
Groups across the Adirondack region will tie purple ribbons with informational yellow tags around select ash trees to raise awareness about the threat posed by the arrival of emerald ash borer and other invasive forest pests on Arbor Day, which is Friday, April 29.

The emerald ash borer is a small beetle that attacks all species of ash trees, killing them by destroying the vital tissue found just inside the bark. Infested ash trees are usually killed by the pest within a few years.

The ribbons will be placed on ash trees in locations with pedestrian traffic, such as post offices, parks and college campuses, or other ash trees of personal importance. The goal is to attract attention to the ash trees and hopefully make people think about the consequences of the emerald ash borer infesting these trees, said Gus Goodwin, of the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program. The ribbons will make people think about questions such as: Who is going to pay for the removal of the ash trees once they need to come down? When do trees need to come down? And who does the tree belong too?

“The desired outcome is to begin the steps for the process of getting communities prepared for the arrival of the emerald ash borer,” Goodwin said. “We’re hoping to do that by generating interest and attracting people to ash trees in their communities. It’s definitely one thing to hear about this on the radio and be warned that ash trees will need to come down in your community, but it’s another thing to look and to see one in your community and identify it.”

Preparation steps that communities could undertake include taking an inventory of ash trees near public parks, schools, roadways and other areas where dead and dying ash could impact human health and safety, according to APPIP. The group also recommends that communities plan for the costs of removing hazard trees and diversifying tree species identified for use in community landscaping plans.

“It’s a little unclear what the timeline is that communities will have to deal with this, but one thing is for sure,” Goodwin said. “Once the emerald ash borer is here, there haven’t been any documented survivors.”

Communities are urged to use this opportunity to discuss not only the emerald ash borer, but also the importance of preventing and managing the spread of other invasive species throughout the Adirondack region. 

Emerald ash borer was first discovered in the United States in Michigan in 2002. Native to Asia, this beetle likely gained entry in wooden packaging materials.

The beetle is now known to be in at least 15 states and two Canadian provinces. It was first documented in New York in 2009 and is now in seven counties. 

It has killed over 50 million ash trees and burdened local governments, private landowners and industries with tens of millions of dollars in management costs. 

The beetle is easily transported in firewood and unfinished forest products and experts say it is only a matter of time before it reaches the North Country. 

Ash trees are a significant component of forests statewide and are also sources of high-quality wood used for heating and finished forest products.

The purple ribbons and tags will be on display from Arbor Day through Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week, which ends May 28. Goodwin said the tags are not an indication the trees have been infested already.

“We really don’t want people to confuse the tags with some sort of management tool, where the trees are going to be cut down immediately,” Goodwin said.

The tagging project is a cooperative effort among the APIPP, Cornell Cooperative Extension, state Department of Environmental Conservation, U.S. Department of Agriculture and concerned citizens. 

This initiative is part of a larger statewide effort to engage communities and promote the formation of local task forces to prepare for the emerald ash borer’s arrival.

For more information, log onto or or contact APIPP at 518-576-2082, ext. 131.


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