FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 1, 2009
SCHUMER: NEW YORK IS ON THE FRONT LINES IN BATTLE AGAINST ASH BORER - INSECT FOUND IN CATTARAUGUS COUNTY; COULD HAVE DEVASTATING IMPACT ON NY FORESTS AND UPSTATE ECONOMY
With the recent discovery of the emerald ash borer (EAB) in 39 trees just next door in Cattaraugus County, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today unveiled a three-point plan to fight the spread of the invasive species that is threatening the forests and trees across Upstate New York and the Northeast region. The plan directs funding to organizations equipped with the resources to fight the insect as well as raise awareness about suppression, eradication, and control of the spread. Schumer’s three point plan will increase funding available to New York from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Forest Service and raise public awareness of this emerging threat.
“Invasive species are a blight on our economy and our ecosystem, with the potential to wreck havoc for businesses in a number of industries, including furniture makers, lumber mills and sporting goods manufacturers,” said Schumer. “Even our national past time itself is at stake; the border between Pennsylvania and the Southern Tier is home to millions of ash trees used to produce the high quality baseball bats used by major leaguers. Protecting our trees and forests from the Emerald Ash Borer is critical to the continued economic and cultural vitality of the region and it is imperative that we fund ways to fight it and raise awareness about how to control the spread.”
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. Infected trees usually begin to die within two to three years. Currently EAB has been found in Cattaraugus County in 39 trees, all of which have been destroyed.
Insects like the emerald ash borer 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. Companies that make products from ash trees harvested in New York, such as the iconic Louisville Slugger bat, 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 and foster tourism.
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 will have a devastating impact on the local economy. PRISM aims to work with towns and municipalities to create a level of awareness of invasive species and teach residents how to fight them. Getting the information about EAB out to non-professionals is critical, because they need to learn how they can engage in preventative measures.
To further the efforts of Allegany County and New York State and help prevent the spread of EAB in other areas in NY and around the country, Senator Schumer today unveiled a comprehensive, three-point plan to fight EAB:
· Call on USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to release emergency funds and provide technical assistance to fight EAB. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) coordinates eradication and suppression efforts for emerging plant pests, including both emergency funding and technical assistance to states. With APHIS’s assistance, New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will be able to survey the state to determine the extent of the infestation, and create and enact a plan to fight the spread of EAB. APHIS can provide both funding and technical expertise in combating and treating this infestation. They routinely provide manpower, experts and equipment to localities that are experiencing invasive species emergencies. However, despite the mounting threat from EAB, APHIS has not provided New York State with adequate funding to fight the infestation. Schumer said that APHIS has an obligation to provide the state, thorough the DEC, with sufficient funding and experts to combat the spread. Ash Borer can have a devastating impact on the state’s economy, and Schumer said USDA should react accordingly.
· Urge the Forest Service to approve and release funding to fight EAB. New York’s DEC has applied for Economic Recovery funds made available through the United States Forest Service that can be used to fight the spread of EAB. DEC will use these funds for the Invasive Species Early Detection and Rapid Response Project and to protect New York’s forest resources through firewood regulation, public education and campground infrastructure improvements. This project will utilize seasonal forestry personnel to conduct educate campers, hikers and other citizens to the danger and way ash borer spreads. It will also be used to recruit and train volunteers, expand survey and detection crews and for the development of rapid response teams within DEC to quickly address invasive species out-breaks. Schumer urged the USFS to provide the DEC with its full request of $3.1 million, which will create 10 permanent jobs and 50 seasonal jobs. This will put boots on the ground at local campgrounds and popular parks, as well as in the woods surrounding the current infestation. Actions to combat Ash Borer include removing infected trees, and treating uninfected trees that are near the infected area with chemicals and pest retardants.
· Support New York’s efforts to educate the public on the threat of EAB. The DEC has also applied for funding from the USFS to help enforce current firewood regulations, enact public education campaigns and improve infrastructure at campgrounds to prevent the spread EAB. The DEC has embarked on an impressive public information campaign, putting up signs at campgrounds and parks and educating hikers, campers, and homeowners as to the dangers of ash borer, and the ways to prevent its spread. Schumer said that fully funding the DEC request for $2.5 million for these programs will put 74 additional people on the ground in NYS who will be dedicated to improving and increasing the effectiveness of these programs.
Senator Schumer has also led the fight against other invasive species like the Gypsy Moth and Southern Pine Beetle. The gypsy moth is especially dangerous to forests in Upstate New York where they feed on and defoliate hemlocks. Each year since 1980, the gypsy moth has defoliated close to a million or more forested acres.
Last month, Schumer signed onto a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, urging them to support critical funding for the Forest Health Management Cooperative Lands Pest Suppression Program, the Forest Service’s primary weapon against invasive species. The program has been extremely successful, slowing the westward march of the gypsy moth by 50 percent.
Schumer noted that through proper funding and an aggressive campaign, the EAB as well as other invasive species can be controlled.
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