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For Release: Tuesday, December 23, 2014

DEC To Establish Capital Region Task Force To Battle Emerald Ash Borer

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) established the Capital District Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) Task Force to help fight and slow the spread of the destructive insect, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens announced today. EAB continues to spread with recent infestations found in the City of Albany, the Town of Colonie, the City of Watervliet, and the City of Troy. Building upon the success of EAB task forces in other regions of the state, DEC has partnered with the City of Albany, the Town of Colonie and other units of local government in the Capitol District to start the Task Force and invites additional municipalities in Albany, Rensselaer and Schenectady counties to join the effort.

"EAB has been found in 22 counties in New York, putting all of New York State's 900 million ash trees in the state at risk," said Commissioner Martens. "It is currently estimated, however, that less than 5 percent of New York forests are infested with EAB, making now the time to take action. There are 10 Emerald ash borer Task Forces in the state, some just beginning and some well-established that facilitate cooperative management efforts among communities facing EAB. Communities that participate in Task Forces have the opportunity to share ideas, resources and experiences, saving everyone involved time and money."

EAB is a small, invasive beetle from Asia that was brought to the United States in wooden shipping pallets and crates most likely in the 1990s. EAB larvae feed on the cambium tissue of ash trees, just below the bark. This feeding creates S-shaped galleries, or tunnels, through the living tissue of the tree, disrupting the flow of water and nutrients. Trees infested with EAB typically die within two to four years, under a moderate to severe infestation.

The Capital Region will be affected by EAB in a number of ways. Ash is a common street tree and yard species because of its beauty, upright growth and resiliency. If action is not taken, entire streets and residential communities could become treeless, resulting in an increase in home-cooling costs and potential decrease in property value. Dead ash trees also deteriorate quickly and fall unpredictably, creating significant liability issues as dead trees threaten to cause injury to pedestrians and property. In addition, ash is a species that often pops up in highly disturbed areas, such as along roadways and power lines. There will be additional maintenance needs as these trees die and fall, resulting in higher costs for utility customers and taxpayers.

"The City of Albany has approximately 1,000 ash trees on city streets and hundreds of additional trees in City parks and other public spaces," said City of Albany Forester Tom Pfeiffer. "The loss of these trees will greatly impact business districts and residential neighborhoods. Our goal is to continue providing public safety and to protect the valuable trees that provide so many benefits to Albany's urban forest. We are hopeful that the task force will be a huge asset as we face this challenge."

The Capital District hopes to learn from the success of well-established groups, such as the Onondaga EAB Task Force. This Task Force includes members from the City of Syracuse, Onondaga County, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Cornell Cooperative Extension, NYS Department of Transportation, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, National Grid, homeowner associations, residents and arborists. The engagement of a diverse range of partners allows for a wider array of opportunities and activities with larger scope.

The Onondaga EAB Task Force has been successful because of the timely planning they have done and because of the range of stakeholders that have joined in the efforts. Their activities include surveying street and park trees for damage, setting traps for EAB, selecting trees suitable for chemical treatment or removal, and creating disposal sites that follow state and federal regulations. By participating in the Task Force, Onondaga County had the opportunity to share information and resources with other agencies and organizations which assisted them in the creation of a management plan and budget for all county-owned ash trees. If enough municipalities and communities participate, these successful initiatives can be replicated by the Capital District EAB Task Force.

The Capital District EAB Task Force meets regularly and all interested agencies, organizations, and associations in the region are invited to attend. The spread of EAB is inevitable but with proper management, the rate of movement can be slowed and the costs of coping with EAB can be lowered. The next Capital District EAB Task Force meeting will be held January 7, 2015. Those interested in attending, or with questions can contact DEC's Forest Health Operations Supervisor, Rob Cole at 518-402-9420. For more information about the EAB Task Forces statewide, visit the New York Invasive Species Clearing House website at http://www.nyis.info/ (Leaving DEC website).

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