Highlights from the Emerald Ash Borer Workshop
Just ask the hundreds of communities that have already experienced the arrival of the exotic emerald ash borer (EAB): despite their small size, this iridescent green insect can have devastating impacts to our forests. Within a 6 to 12-year time period, the EAB can cause nearly 100% mortality of ash trees (which is one of the 10 most common trees in Vermont), leading to significant risk to public and private infrastructure, public safety, and our forest communities. Unfortunately, the burden of dealing with the impacts of the EAB falls heavily upon municipalities, utility companies, and landowners.
On March 18, the Windham Regional Commission and its supporting partners, including the Windham County Natural Resources Conservation District, the Town of Brattleboro and our speaker organizations, hosted a workshop to assist towns with planning for and responding to the EAB. Presentations were given by Jim Esden, Forester II for the Vermont Forests, Parks and Recreation, Mollie Klepack, Forest Pest Coordinator for the UVM Extension, and Bob Everingham, Forest Pest First Detector, owner of All about Trees and lead entity in the development of Brattleboro's EAB Preparedness Plan.
While it may be tempting to wait until a problem arises before addressing management response to the EAB, many towns throughout the northeast have found themselves overwhelmed with tree mortalities within just a few years time, straining budgets and creating a significant risk to the public. Taking a more proactive approach, towns can do some preliminary planning in order to understand the extent of the potential problem through an ash tree inventory and develop an EAB preparedness plan that outlines the town's management approach.
How does a town proceed? First, it is recommended that towns put together a team to assess the problem and develop a plan. Town Conservation Commissions and Town Tree Wardens may be willing to take on this task. Once a team has been formed, a typical process involves seeking approval from the selectboard and collecting resources and preliminary information. The team is now ready to conduct an inventory along roads and near infrastructure. A variety of worksheets and resources have been developed to assist with this process.
With the inventory complete, the next step is to develop a management strategy outlined in a preparedness plan. Many towns will choose a combination of the 4 main management options:
- Do nothing, understanding that liability issues likely exist.
- Remove ash trees before they become infested, which means a loss of valuable canopy.
- Remove ash trees as they become infested, which is costlier with greater risks than preemptive cutting
- Treat with insecticides, which is costly but preserves the canopy and allows towns to control the losses or rate of loss.