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Schumer: Protect Funding To Fight Emerald Ash Borer

Emerald Ash Borer
Emerald Ash Borer

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer is sounding the alarm: federal funding that is supposed to be used to stop the spread of invasive species and pests like the emerald ash borer often has to be redirected to pay for fighting wildfire emergencies due to budget restraints.

One by one, 50 million ash trees across the United States have fallen to the emerald ash borer.  The metallic green insect, which arrived in America on wooden shipping pallets and crates in 2002, measures about a half-inch long and an eighth-inch wide. It arrived in western New York in 2009, and made its initial appearance in the Albany area in 2014.   "These beetles move slowly, but they can decimate acres of trees in a single year. If a tree is infected and goes untreated, it'll inevitably die. Even if we catch the infection, its difficult to save the tree unless its caught early. And another complicating factor is that its difficult to detect that the tree is infected, and that's because the ash borer burrows into the tree, and you don't know the tree is sick until it’s too late.”

Schumer is trying to convince his colleagues to support the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2015. He says the bipartisan bill will help provide budgetary relief for the Forest Service from FEMA and other sources, so that funding for programs like those that combat the borer can  remain intact through the fiscal year, and also grant additional flexibility to the Forest Service to better pay for fighting wildfires. 

Without the necessary funding, the Democrat says the pests will continue to kill trees and disturb the natural balance of New York's forests.. The impact of the invasive is even being felt on the diamond. "Baseball bats are made from ashwood. But the shortage has forced the reknowned Louisville Slugger, or even Adirondack bats, I visited them, they're made in Dolgeville in Oneida County. They have to settle for lesser woods to meet demand. So, when a player on your team hits a long fly ball that's just short of the wall, you can blame the emerald ash borer, for robbing a home run."

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.

Over the past winter, the New York City DEP cut 4,000 ash trees in the Catskills that showed signs of infestation.

Albany’s Department of General Services uses funding from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to run its program to treat and remove damaged ash trees. A recent inventory identified 1,000 ash trees on city property along Albany streets and an additional 1,200 in city parks and public spaces. All are in jeopardy, according to city forester Tom Pfeiffer:    "It is a smaller percentage of the overall street tree population than what the elm tree was in its full glory, covering a lot more of the city's tree population."

Individual trees tend to die within 2-3 years after becoming infested. Pfeiffer says some of 40 trees slated for removal have been taken down. The city is hoping for the best as monitoring and treatment continues.

  • NYSDEC’s emerald ash borer hotline is 866-640-0652.
  • Albany Cornell Cooperative Extension can be reached at 518-765-3500. The Extension’s EAB website is http://albany.cce.cornell.edu/environment/invasive-pests/emerald-ash-borer.
  • Albany residents  can contact DGS at 518-434-CITY for more information.   The City is currently working to find sufficient funding to pay for planting new trees on City property for residents who would like a replacement tree for a removed ash tree. However, DGS always encourages residents to support tree planting programs, and has a 50-50 matching program for new trees. For information on how best to support replanting initiatives, residents can contact Eva Petkanas at DGS (epetkanas@albanyny.gov /518-434-5822).

For additional information on the emerald ash borer, please visit the national EAB information website, which is operated through a grant from the US Forest Service, Northeastern Area.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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