FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 8, 2011

SCHUMER: DANGEROUS CUTS TO INVASIVE SPECIES FUNDING COULD EXACERBATE UPSTATE NY’S EMERALD ASH BORER PROBLEM, PUTTING JOBS AT RISK – CALLS FOR CONTINUED FUNDING OF KEY PROGRAMS TO COMBAT EAB

House Proposal Cuts Funding For Programs Designed To Combat The Spread of Emerald Ash Borer In NY – Pest Is Already Wreaking Havoc On New York’s Ash Trees

Counties From Erie & Monroe To Ulster Already Under Quarantine; New County-By-County Report Shows Over 40 Businesses Using Ash Lumber, 900 Million Ash Trees In Every Part Of The State That Are At Risk

Schumer: Unless We Fight Back, NY’s Ash Trees & The Industries and Jobs They Support Could Vanish

 

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced his opposition to proposed cuts for invasive species funding that could exacerbate Upstate New York’s growing emerald ash borer (EAB) problem. As both the House and Senate move forward with budgets for the upcoming fiscal year, Schumer is urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to provide sufficient funds to fight invasive species in the face of proposed cuts in the House budget that would make fighting the emerald ash borer infestation much more difficult. The pest, which was first discovered in New York in 2009, threatens the more than 900 million ash trees in Upstate New York and the timber and lumber business that they support. The House budget proposal slashes the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service budget by $73 million, which includes a $37 million cut to the Plant Health program, and slices $354 million from agriculture research programs. Schumer believes that these cuts would obviously provide short term savings, but ultimately make little sense in the face of looming invasive species threats that could have a devastating economic effect on communities throughout upstate New York. Forest-based manufacturing accounts for nearly 50,000 jobs in New York, and $1.5 billion in payrolls – workers in the Southern Tier have already been laid off, thanks in part to the EAB infestation. Already 18 counties have been placed in a quarantine zone due to EAB infestations, and other counties are largely defenseless to prevent the spread of the bug.

 

“It makes no sense to tie one hand behind our back as we fight the emerald ash borer infestation, but that’s exactly what these shortsighted cuts would do,” said Schumer. “You wouldn’t use a fly swatter with a gaping hole in the middle of it, but that’s essentially what we would be left with. This tiny bug has the potential to devastate an industry that employs thousands of Upstate New Yorkers. I strongly oppose these cuts in funding that would hurt our ability to keep the emerald ash borer at bay, and keep Upstate New York jobs safe. I’m going to fight hard for funding in the Senate, and do everything I can to protect the ash trees that are a key part of our economy.”

 

The Emerald Ash Borer is a bright green beetle that kills trees by burrowing into their bark and destroying the trees’ ability to bring water from the roots to upper branches. Trees infected with the pest usually begin to die within two to three years. EAB was first found in Cattaraugus County during 2009 – all 39 infested trees were destroyed. The insect has been found in several other counties across the state, and experts fear it could sweep across the state and infect new areas by the end of the summer.

 

Insects like the EAB threaten the health of forests and ash trees every year, which in turn threatens the livelihood of communities that depend on the forests. According to the state Department of Agriculture, New York has more than 900 million ash trees, representing about seven percent of all trees in the state. Since the beetle was first discovered in North America in Michigan in 2002, the Emerald Ash Borer has devastated forests throughout the country and has the potential to decimate New York’s ash tree population. More than 70 million ash trees in 13 Midwestern states and Pennsylvania, as well as many in southern Ontario in Canada have already been destroyed by this deadly pest.

 

The ecological and economic impact of EAB is a serious concern, especially to the hardwood industry. EAB defoliation can result in plant stress and possible death. Sawmills and lumber yard, plus companies that make products from ash trees harvested in New York, such as baseball bats, will be negatively impacted if EAB continues to spread throughout the state. According to the Empire State Forest Products Association, forest-based manufacturing employs over 49,000 people in New York, and generates payrolls of over $1.5 billion. In addition, ash trees account for over 10% of total wood manufacturing by volume in New York. Without drastic and immediate intervention, industries relying on New York for quality hardwood resources will suffer. In addition, EAB will kill trees and disturb the natural balance of New York’s forests, which provide recreational opportunities to many, helping to foster tourism throughout the state. Although exact estimates are not known, experts say that the pest has caused tens of hundreds to potentially hundreds of millions of dollars of damage already.

 

Shipments of Kiln dried ash lumber are conservatively valued at between $75-150 million annually, according to the Empire States Forest Products Association. Sawmills and lumber companies that process ash wood and are currently operating in quarantined areas have already begun to suffer, and similar impediments could be placed in front of other businesses if the EAB spreads and more counties are considered quarantined areas. Companies operating under quarantine are forced to grind all of their ash bark into tiny pieces and adhere to a number of other restrictions that have increased costs by up to $250,000 per sawmill, and forced some firms to cut back on the number of shifts for workers,

 

USDA’s APHIS is the lead federal agency in charge of surveys and early detection efforts for the emerald ash borer and other invasive species like the Asian long-horned beetle across New York State. Due to the spread of both insects, nationwide demand for the program’s support has increased, putting a strain on current funding levels. This strain, which would be worsened by the funding cuts, has resulted in fewer resources coming to New York state to help communities prepare for and respond to ash borer infestations, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The Agriculture Resource Service in the USDA is deeply involved in work on biocontrols for the emerald ash borer, and is currently planning to test those controls across the state this summer. Specifically, USDA is testing the effectiveness of parasitic wasps that could combat the EAB, but the cuts included in the House budget proposal could jeopardize these tests and other research projects that would directly benefit New York.

 

APHIS is also helping to fund DEC’s extensive awareness campaign, including a number of public messages and meetings to spread awareness of the dangers of moving firewood, which is a common method for spreading the EAB. DEC, with APHIS funding at its back, conducts dozens of public meetings, events, and training sessions every year for forest officials and campers alike, helping to raise awareness and prevent people from unknowingly aiding in the spread of EAB. Cornell’s Cooperative Extension has utilized APHIS funding in its EAB program in order to reduce the impact of the pest through education, community preparation, early detection, and rapid response. Cornell has been instrumental in the fight against plant pests and disease like oak wilt and soybean rust but their ability to conduct research and respond to emerging threats in the future could be compromised if research dollars are cut.

 

The Department of Agriculture also provides response assistance to states through the U.S. Forest Service, which helps the NY DEC assess the extent of the EAB infestation, and helps communities develop forest management responses. Earlier this year, the Forest Service worked with the state DEC to survey the infestation in Ulster and Greene Counties, and continued funding is helping to plan control and response activities set to get underway this summer. USDA funding is absolutely essential to New York’s efforts to combat and manage EAB, as it is the only federal source for management and forest restoration that is available to impacted communities and forest landowners.

 

Currently, the following counties are already under state-imposed quarantine due to the EAB infestation: Niagara, Orleans, Monroe, Wayne, Erie, Genesee, Wyoming, Livingston, Ontario, Yates, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany, Steuben, Schuyler, Chemung, Green, and Ulster. Being designated as a quarantined county means limits the intrastate movement of ash trees, lumber, any product containing ash, firewood of any species, wood chips, bark mulch, and other products.

 

·         In the Capital Region there are 7 business and 122 million trees at risk

·         In Western New York there are 5 business and 70 million trees at risk

·         In the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region there are 3 business and 125 million trees at risk

·         In the Southern Tier there are 14 business and 215 million trees at risk

·         In Central New York there are 6 business and 130 million trees at risk

·         In the Hudson Valley there are 4 business and 39 million trees at risk

·         In the North Country there are 3 business and 206 million trees at risk

 

According to the Western New York Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM), EAB is expected to cost $10.7 billion in treatment and removal costs in urban and residential areas in the US over the next 10 years. Without the proper funding, awareness or infrastructure, the EAB could have a devastating impact on the New York economy.


Copies of Senator Schumer’s letter to the Appropriations Subcommittees with jurisdiction over the funding appear below:

 

Dear Chairmen Inouye and Reed and Ranking Members Cochran and Murkowski:

 

As you work to prepare the Fiscal Year 2012 Interior, Environmental and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, I urge you to ensure that sufficient resources are allocated to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Interior (DOI) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to prevent and control the spread of invasive species which threaten our lands and our national economy.

Invasive plant and animal species are a pervasive problem affecting communities in New York and across the nation. Invasive pests, such as the emerald ash borer, Eurasian milfoil and the brown marmorated stink bug threaten our natural resources and wreck havoc on communities and industries that rely upon them. Preventing invasive species from gaining a foothold in our communities and suppressing established species is indeed money well spent. Once a pest has established itself in a new environment, the economic costs and the impact on the environment can be staggering. For example, it is estimated that the cost of treating and removing trees infected with the invasive emerald ash borer will come to more than $10 billion over the next ten years. In addition, we see daily the negative impact that invasive species are having on the many industries that rely on affected natural resources such as the tourism, forestry and agriculture industries. For this reason, it is imperative that we fund programs which will aid in the fight against invasive species. 

I have appreciated the Subcommittee’s past support for efforts to fight invasive species. I urge you to provide EPA, DOI and USDA’s Forest Service with sufficient funding to address the problem of invasive species.

 

Thank you and your staff very much for your hard work on this legislation.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to have your staff contact my Washington, D.C. office.

 

Dear Chairmen Inouye and Kohl and Ranking Members Cochran and Blunt:

 

As you work to prepare the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, I urge you to ensure the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has sufficient resources to prevent and control the spread of invasive species which threaten our lands and our national economy.

Invasive plant and animal species are a pervasive problem affecting communities in New York and across the nation. Invasive pests, such as the emerald ash borer and the brown marmorated stink bug threaten our natural resources and wreck havoc on communities and industries that rely upon them. Preventing invasive species from gaining a foothold in our communities and suppressing established species is indeed money well spent. Once a pest has established itself in a new environment, the economic costs and the impact on the environment can be staggering. For example, it is estimated that the cost of treating and removing trees infected with the invasive emerald ash borer will come to more than $10 billion over the next ten years. In addition, we see daily the negative impact that invasive species are having on the many industries that rely on affected natural resources such as the tourism, forestry and agriculture industries. For this reason, it is imperative that we fund programs which will aid in the fight against invasive species. 

I have appreciated the Subcommittee’s past support for USDA efforts to fight invasive species. I urge you to provide USDA with sufficient funding through the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the Agriculture Research Service and other programs to address the problem of invasive species

 

Thank you and your staff very much for your hard work on this legislation.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to have your staff contact my Washington, D.C. office.

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