Press-Republican

August 18, 2009

APA warned to be pro-active on insects

By KIM SMITH DEDAM

RAY BROOK — The threat to northern forests from the Asian long-horned beetle and emerald ash borer comes with a high price.

Beyond destruction of all ash species — white, green and black — an infestation of emerald ash borer alone has potential to cost the timber industry $25.1 billion nationwide.

Nearly 114 million board feet of wood would disappear, according to research presented to the Adirondack Park Agency recently.



ACTION URGED

Commissioners heard from one of the nation’s top invasive-species scientists.

“Prevention and getting on the thing fast is an incredible high-value, up-front investment,” said Dr. Otto Doering III, a professor at Purdue University who sits on the U.S. Department of Interior’s Invasive Species Advisory Committee.

“If you get behind the curve on the thing, you are dead meat.”

Doering defined invasive species as a “wicked” problem, one not readily solved by scientific data alone.

“You have to get on the problem before battle lines are fully drawn.”

It is very difficult for government bodies to be proactive in that sense, he said.



INSECT MOVEMENT

Commissioners then heard from APA Forester Larry Phillips, who described the foreign insects and the destruction they can cause.

Both came into the country on wood-packing materials.

The Asian long-horned beetle is an inch and a half long with shiny shell and white spots all over it, he said, sometimes mistaken here for a white-spotted pine sawyer.

The difference, Phillips said, is the pine sawyer’s hard shell is dull, not shiny.

The emerald ash borer, green in color, is very small; it fits in the center of a penny with room to spare.

While infestations of the Asian beetle can be reversed, Phillips said, the emerald borer is not eradicable.

Areas surrounding New York City are quarantined due to Asian beetle infestation, with new outbreaks found in parts of Massachusetts.

While Asian beetle travels very slowly, the emerald borer travels five miles a year, left to its own devices. It kills ash trees in two to five years.

Both bugs can travel in cut firewood.



ON GUARD

There is no trap for Asian beetles, which can be readily seen using binoculars.

But purple prism traps hanging in trees throughout the North Country are set to catch and monitor movement of emerald ash borers, which have been found as close as Randolph, N.Y., forcing quarantine of Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties.

A quarantine severely restricts timber hauling and changes the rules for loggers.

“Cutting trees, you have to be very careful and listen to the experts,” Phillips said. “(Loggers) can get permits to move ash trees out, but they are required to take off the bark and (trim) a quarter-inch of the wood.”

To halt further invasion, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has forbidden transport of firewood more than 50 miles from where it was cut.

And forest rangers are questioning campers about their wood supplies.



NO SOLUTION

“We seem to be just tracking it instead of stopping it,” said APA Chairman Curt Stiles. “How do we prioritize?”

Doering offered a contain-loss scenario, saying there’s probably no solution.

“Like (Eurasian) milfoil, you can’t solve the problem, but you can make it better.”

The APA will host a panel discussion about invasive species next month.



E-mail Kim Smith Dedam at:

kdedam@pressrepublican.com