Gillibrand calls for funding to eradicate invasive Emerald Ash Borer

By NEWSChannel 2 Staff

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee, has urged for additional funding to help research, control and eradicate the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive insect threatening the 900 million ash trees in New York and throughout the country.

There are no known methods to control the Emerald Ash Borer.

“New York State is home to some of the world’s most beautiful forests that today are at a major risk,” Senator Gillibrand said. “Unless we take action, this harmful insect will continue to spread and eat away at trees and forests. We need to make the right investment and bring this harmful insect to a halt before it’s too late.”

The infestation of the Emerald Ash Boer, native to China, was first reported in New York State in 2009 when it was found in Randolph, Cattaraugus County. It has since been found in 14 other counties, including Ulster, Greene, Livingston, Monroe, Steuben, Genesee, Erie, Orange, Albany, Niagara, Dutchess and Tioga, and has now spread to Delaware and Otsego Counties.

New York’s forests are also a strong economic driver. The state’s forest industry employs more than 60,000 workers and generates approximately $4.6 billion to the state’s economy, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The insect is suspected of first entering the U.S. near Detroit, Michigan, in 2002, where it led to the killing of millions of ash trees in the Midwest, then making its way to 19 states. The beetle has the potential to destroy upwards of 7 percent of the state’s forests and 7.5 percent of trees across the United States.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Senator Gillibrand is advocating for the proper resources to control the invasive species and protect New York’s forests. Senator Gillibrand’s complete letter:

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.

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