15% of all trees in Onondaga County are ash trees, doomed when the Emerald Ash Borer attacks them, and people who've been watching the insect's invasion say it is only a matter of time before it arrives here. There's an epidemic in Rochester, and this spring the bug has also been discovered to the east of Central New York. The little green bug bores into the trunk of ash trees, leaving the wood riddled and the tree unable to survive.
Expect to see the big purple insect traps in trees again this summer. The DEC is putting them up now, to track if the as borers are here.
There are efforts to prevent the spread. Onondaga County's Oneida Shores has a ban on bringing in firewood. Onondaga County Parks Commissioner Bill Lansley says firewood is the way the borer seems to be moving around. The ban is on reservation information, and park security is enforcing it. Campers can buy certified clean firewood from the park, if needed.
Onondaga County has 3,000 acres of public parks and 800 miles of roadway (double that, to 1600 miles, if you count both sides of the road), and with ash planted en masse to replace Environmental Director, David Coburn, is sthe blighted Dutch Elms, we have thousands of trees on public land. If they fall after being diseased, they could pose a major public hazard, so steps are being taken now.
Environmental Director David Coburn is starting a census of all ash trees, with a gps database of all their locations being set up. The census in the parks should be done this year, though roadways will take a bit longer.
It's expected that most trees that pose a danger will come down. Parks Commissioner Bill Lansley says a 60 foot tree within 60 feet of a public trail would be removed, for example, though trees in isolated areas, such as the backwoods of Highland Forest. Parks crews are already qualified for tree removal, so it's not expected to be a major added expense. The wood would be sold for firewood, or disposed of--setting up a lumbering operation for what's a valuable hardwood looks to be too costly, at this point.
Still to be decided, the process for determining which trees actually come down, and which ones might be saved: there's an innoculation that could save trees, though it is expensive.
Rosamond Gifford Zoo Director Ted Fox says at Burnet Park, they've already started replacing some of the ash trees with species that are not vulnerable. The courtyard outside the peacock exhibit, for example, has hybrid elms, which are considered fast-growing. Fox says one ash tree he'd miss, is the one at the pool in the elephant enclosure, which provides shade to spectators and also adds to the esthetic of the display--it may be a candidate for saving.
Onondaga County has a two-for-one policy, replacing any tree cut down with two new ones, so Commissioner Lansley hopes the overall impact of the Ash destruction will be 'slight' though it will take time for the new trees to mature.
For homeowners, similar decisions on keeping and innoculating, or cutting down ash trees will be coming. Both the DEC and Cornell Cooperative Extension are setting up web and other awareness campaigns. And, if you're not sure if you have ash trees, Fox offers this quick id guide: the bark on trunks of older trees is distinctive, heavily furrowed; leaves come out on multiple stems, with over five leaflets on each little branch.