09.16.15

CRITICAL FUNDING USED TO COMBAT THE DESTRUCTIVE EMERALD ASH BORERS ACROSS UPSTATE NY HAS TO BE REDIRECTED TO PAY FOR EMERGENCIES LIKE FIGHTING WILDFIRES; SENATOR SAYS ASH BORERS ARE DRAMATICALLY SPREADING ACROSS UPSTATE NY; SCHUMER BILL WILL OPEN UP ADDITIONAL FUNDS TO BETTER FIGHT WILDFIRES & PROTECT FUNDING TO COMBAT ASH BORERS

Due To Budget Restrictions, Funding Critical For Combating the Emerald Ash Borer Must Go To Fight Wildfires & Suppression Efforts; Senator Says Wildfires Should Be Treated Like Any Other Natural Disaster and Granted Eligibility for Additional Disaster Funding, Allowing Invasive Species Funding To Remain Intact

 

Invasive Species Like Emerald Ash Borers Are Spreading Across Upstate NY, Ravaging Trees And Destroying Acres Of Forests

 

Schumer: Funding Is Desperately Needed To Fight Ash Borers in Upstate NY

 

On a conference call with reporters, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today revealed that critical federal funding that is supposed to be used to stop the spread of invasive species and pests like Emerald Ash Borer, often has to be redirected to pay for fighting wildfire emergencies due to severe budget restraints. Schumer said that the Forest Service should have the flexibility to access additional disaster funding to fight wildfires, like other federal agencies can do for any other natural disaster, so that federal funding intended for other Forest Service missions, such as combating invasive species like the Ash Borer may remain intact. Without the necessary funding, the Ash Borers will continue to kill trees and disturb the natural balance of New York's forests, which provide recreational opportunities to many and support tourism. Therefore, Schumer urged his colleagues to support the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2015. This bipartisan bill will help provide budgetary relief for the Forest Service, so that funding for mission-critical programs like those that combat the Ash Borer in Upstate New York can remain intact through the fiscal year, and also grant additional flexibility to the Forest Service to better pay for fighting wildfires.

“Invasive species like the Emerald Ash Borer are spreading dramatically across every region of Upstate New York,” said Schumer. “Funding intended for use in preventing the spread of these dangerous species is regularly disrupted when the Forest Service is forced to use it to cover shortfalls in their wildfire programs. That is why we need a long-term fix to ensure we can get rid of species like the Emerald Ash Borer while still providing adequate resources to combat wildfires.”

Schumer explained that current federal policy, has created budget constraints through imposed spending limits for fighting wildfires, which is based on a ten year average and these fires are becoming increasingly more expensive. When the funds for fighting these wildfires are exhausted, the U.S. Forest Service, under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is forced to use funding from other programs to cover the shortfalls in their wildfire budget. Schumer said this process – known as “fire borrowing” – is a direct result of the fact that the Forest Service is subject to strict budgetary restraints any emergency funding provided for wildfires must be offset by cuts to other programs. This is unlike funding for other disasters, such as the funding available to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to respond in the aftermath of a hurricane or other major natural disaster – the Forest Service must use funding from its other programs to cover the rising and unpredictable costs of wildfires. This year alone, the Forest Service has already had to transfer $700 million from other programs to fight wildfires.

Schumer said this “fire borrowing” ultimately makes it harder for the agency to effectively prevent and fight fires and disrupts funding for other essential programs, and demonstrably limits the effectiveness of those other programs. This includes programs like the one the Forest Service uses to help combat the spread of invasive species, like the Emerald Ash Borer. The Ash Borer is a bright green beetle that is invasive and aggressive, and it has been particularly damaging to New York State Ash trees. This inset primarily targets Ash trees and kills its host 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. It is often not discovered that a tree is infected, however, until it is too late. Schumer said the Ash Borer presents a major threat to Upstate New York because these trees are an integral part of its ecosystem and scenery. On top of this, Schumer said it is particularly dangerous when 50-foot tall, dried-out and brittle Ash trees, often prone to snapping when an Ash Borer has done its work, are scattered across the backyards of homeowners throughout New York State.

For these reasons, Schumer said that the Forest Service should have budgetary relief so that they can better combat wildfire emergencies while maintaining resources to counter the spread of invasive species, like the Emerald Ash Borer. Schumer said that by allowing the Forest Service access to federal disaster relief assistance, it would allow agencies responsible for fighting wildfires to have more budgetary certainty to continue their efforts in fighting wildfires without disrupting any funding from crucial programs that fight invasive species, like the Ash Borer throughout Upstate NY. Schumer said wildfires should be treated like any other natural disaster and granted eligibility for disaster funding, so invasive species funding remains intact.

Schumer said repeatedly borrowing funding from programs to cover shortfalls in other programs creates long-term structural budget issues and sets up unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles. In order to avoid this “fire borrowing,” Schumer is cosponsoring and pushing legislation, the Wildlife Disaster Funding Act of 2015, which would allow the Forest Service access to disaster funding to pay for emergency wildfire costs. Specifically, this would include applying for disaster relief funds to cover the cost of wildfire fighting when their regular funds are exhausted. In addition to providing greater financial flexibility for wildfire programs, it would also preserve the funding stream for programs that attempt to eliminate invasive species like the Ash Borer. This legislation was introduced by Senator Ron Wyden [D-OR]. Schumer said fighting wildfires and preventing the spread of invasive species are both top priorities. Ultimately, this legislation would provide budgetary relief so programs like those that combat the Ash Borer in Upstate New York can remain intact through the fiscal year.

Because the Ash Borer is spreading across Upstate New York and can do so quickly, state officials need to be able to acquire federal funding at a moment’s notice. Since their arrival in the U.S., the Ash Borer has killed an estimated 50 million Ash trees across the country. With this invasive species spreading across Upstate New York, Schumer said the Ash Borer could threaten the approximately 2,670,752 acres across Upstate New York that are covered in Ash trees. Schumer highlighted the high number of Ash trees per region to highlight how devastating a spread of this invasive species could be on the Ash tree population:

 

-          In the Capital Region, there are approximately 260,569.6 acres covered by Ash trees that could be threatened.

-          In Central New York, there are approximately 371,756.8 acres covered by Ash trees that could be threatened.

-          In Western New York, there are approximately 330,169.6 acres covered by Ash trees that could be threatened.

-          In the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region, there are approximately 592,544.0 acres covered by Ash trees that could be threatened.

-          In the Southern Tier, there are approximately 488,416.0 acres covered by Ash trees that could be threatened.

-          In the Hudson Valley, there are approximately 184,627.2 acres covered by Ash trees that could be threatened.

-          In the North Country, there are approximately 442,668.8 acres covered by Ash trees that could be threatened.

 

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