Lawmakers push for funds for stomp out invasive Emerald Ash Borer

Emerald Ash Borer

Lawmakers are pushing for more funding to help us learn more about the little bug that's changing our ecosystems in a big way, so that we can stomp out the Emerald Ash Borer before it spreads further into our forests.

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has written to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture asking for the proper resources to help control the invasive species, which has now crawled into 15 counties and threatens 900 million ash trees across the state.

The Ash Borer's presence in the United States can be traced back to 2002. The beetle, native to China, was first detected near Detroit, Michigan. It's thought the invasive species was on wooden pallets with car parts that were shipped from China. Since then, it's killed millions of ash trees in the Midwest, and has spread, most likely through firewood, to 19 states including New York.

The beetle was detected four years ago in Western New York, found in Randolph in Cattaraugus County. Since 2009, it has spread to 14 other counties including Ulster, Greene, Livingston, Monroe, Steuben, Genesee, Erie, Orange, Albany, Niagara, Dutchess and Tioga. Most recently, the Ash Borer was found in Delaware and Otsego counties.

There are no known methods to control the Emerald Ash Borer, which will not only eat away at trees, but also affect jobs and money. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation estimates more than 60,000 people work in the forest industry in New York, which pumps more than $4.5 billion into the state economy.

"Unless we take action, this harmful insect will continue to spread and eat away at trees and forests," says Gillibrand, who is a member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee. "We need to make the right investment and bring this harmful insect to a halt before it's too late."

Here is Gillibrand's complete letter to Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture:

I am writing concerning the recent news that the Emerald Ash Borer is now confirmed to be present in fifteen counties in New York State. As I am sure you are aware, the Emerald Ash Borer, which has the potential to destroy 7.5 percent of trees across the United States, is a small insect that infests and eventually kills ash trees, is continuing to spread, causing serious devastation to our trees, and potential harm to some of our wood industries. The insect was first reported in Western New York over four years ago, threatening nearby state parks and forests. The most recent news that Otsego and Delaware Counties have been added to the list of counties in New York State does not give me confidence that the spread of this harmful insect will be subsiding any time soon.

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), New York has more than 900 million ash trees. Several counties in Western New York and the Finger Lakes have a highly concentrated Ash population that makes up nearly a third of their overall forest. As the Emerald Ash Borer continues to invade states that contain ash trees, there is concern that businesses, such as the logging industry and the wooden baseball bat industry, will be severely impacted. For example, the Adirondack Division of the Rawlings Sporting Goods in Dolgeville, located in Herkimer County, is sitting in the middle of a State and Federal quarantine area designed to prevent the Emerald Ash Borer from spreading. These conditions have limited the supply of ash wood, which is the desirable material from which to make a baseball bat, putting the company's production of those bats in danger.

Due to the pervasive nature of this issue, I am asking for funding to be made available to assist the research, control and eradication of this population of insects that threaten the ash tree in New York and throughout the United States. If we are going to seriously address spread of the Emerald Ash Borer, it is critical for the federal government to provide the necessary resources to reverse this trend.

Thank you for your attention to this issue, and for your consideration of this request.