WITH WESTERN NEW YORK MUNICIPALITIES CUTTING DOWN HUNDREDS OF ASH TREES ATTACKED BY THE EMERALD ASH BORER AND SPENDING HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS TO TRY TO SAVE OTHERS,
a U.S. senator says federal funds that should be going to safeguard trees from the voracious beetle are instead being diverted to fight wildfires across the country because of budgetary constraints.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer said the Forest Service should have the resources and flexibility to deal with wildfires and other natural disasters so that efforts to fight the emerald ash borer in the Buffalo area can remain intact throughout the summer.
“Without the necessary funding, ash borers will continue to kill trees in Buffalo and disturb the natural balance of forests in Upstate New York, which provide recreational opportunities to many and support tourism,” Schumer said Sunday in a prepared statement.
Ash make up about 20 percent of Erie County’s tree population, and the emerald ash borer is “ravaging” the trees in Delaware Park, across the city and in surrounding suburbs, Schumer said.
Schumer said he would call for passage of the Wildlife Disaster Funding Act, a bipartisan bill, during a news conference on Monday. It would let the Forest Service keep in place other funding for programs like those that combat the emerald ash borer.
He said wildfires should be treated like any other natural disaster, with additional funding provided when necessary, not diverted from other programs. He was joined by Any Rabb, Buffalo’s deputy parks commissioner, and Paul Maurer, chairman of Re-Tree WNY.
“We knew this was coming,” said Maurer, speaking by phone Sunday. “We never planted ash trees at all. We avoided that species.”
Buffalo’s Delaware Avenue ash are dying now. It’s possible Re-Tree will start replacing the lost ash and add to that its mission of replanting trees lost in the 2006 storm. “We’ve seen the devastation,” said Maurer.
Schumer’s effort comes after a Buffalo News article detailed the havoc being caused by the emerald ash borer, which got into the United States on a wooden palette from China in the 1990s. It was first noticed locally in 2011 in Lancaster, near Buffalo Niagara International Airport, and at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens in South Park.
Now, experts say, Buffalo, Tonawanda, Amherst, Clarence, Lancaster, West Seneca and Cheektowaga are heavily infected. Parts of Niagara, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties also have infestations.
It can cost homeowners and municipalities thousands of dollars to have the trees cut down. Salvaging the trees also can be expensive. Amherst is spending $500,000 to save 9,000 trees after already experiencing what one official called “enormous” losses throughout the town.
Treatment can involve “girdling” trees, or stripping off an eight- to 10-inch swath of bark so that the exposed cambium layer underneath becomes a magnet that attracts the emerald ash borer to just that small section.
Trees also can be injected with insecticides, as Amherst is doing at cost of about $3,000 for every 100 trees, depending on their size.