Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner
Jessica A. Chittenden

February 26, 2007

New York Assists in Eliminating Pest That Kills Ash Trees

Emerald Ash Borer Detected in Maryland; New York State Helps in Eradication

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced the State’s response to help the State of Maryland eradicate the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), a destructive invasive forest health pest that causes a high rate of mortality in infested native ash trees.

In August 2006, Maryland officials confirmed the presence of the EAB, which was believed to be introduced by a shipment of EAB infested ash trees from Michigan in 2003 in violation of that state’s quarantine. In December 2006, the Maryland Department of Agriculture asked neighboring states for assistance in conducting an inventory of ash trees, identifying infested trees and assisting with the removal of infested trees. A contingent of 11 New York horticulture inspectors and 17 New York foresters will be working with their counterparts in Maryland to quickly isolate and remove infested trees.

"We are pleased to be able to return the favor of helping a fellow state Department of Agriculture deal with a serious invasive species outbreak," said New York State Acting Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker. "Not only will this opportunity allow us to help eradicate the Emerald Ash Borer in Maryland, it will provide our inspectors with firsthand knowledge in dealing with this pest that happens to be only 150 miles away from our western border in Ohio and is considered to be a serious threat to New York ash trees."

"DEC is looking forward to helping our colleagues in Maryland manage this emerging threat to New York’s native ash trees, as well as provide our staff with valuable experience in approaches that quickly address threats that can significantly damage our forested ecosystem," DEC Acting Executive Deputy Commissioner Carl Johnson said. "We will continue to develop and advocate for support of strategies to address invasive species on the state, federal and local levels so that we can quickly mobilize the resources needed to contain and eradicate these threats."

New York’s participation will provide Maryland with experienced plant pest regulatory officials knowledgeable in tree identification, the target pest and landowner interactions. In return, New York inspectors and foresters will have the opportunity to observe an actual EAB infestation and gain valuable knowledge and experience that will enhance the surveillance and early detection of this pest in New York State.

The State’s Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey Program (CAPS) has targeted the EAB as an invasive pest with a high probability for introduction into New York State. Last year, State Horticultural Inspectors established 44 EAB sentinel trees to survey in 15 counties. All of the sentinel trees were inspected and found negative for this pest. Surveys will continue under the CAPS program in 2007 with the establishment of 60 to 80 sentinel trees and an emphasis in counties in Western New York.

In addition, New York’s Invasive Species Task Force is helping to coordinate the State’s investigation of and response to the threat of EAB and other invasive species. Governor Spitzer’s Executive Budget proposes record funding of $5 million to support these invasive species efforts.

New York is also developing public educational materials to encourage the voluntary elimination of the movement of firewood to help stop this prime vector from speeding the spread of insect pests into areas previously not infested. The state is also exploring other options to limit the long distance transport of firewood within New York. Many states and the province of Ontario have measures in place to control the importation or movement of firewood, of any species, as a means to prevent introduction or limit the spread of insect pests known to live in or on cut firewood.

The EAB is a serious invasive pest of ash that is responsible for the death and decline of more than 25 million ash trees in the United States. Introduced from Asia, the immature stages of the EAB feed just beneath the bark and produce galleries that eventually girdle and kill the tree. The EAB was first discovered in 2002 in Michigan and neighboring Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Later, the EAB was reported in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and most recently in Maryland. The EAB has not been detected in New York State.

Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and the lower peninsula of Michigan are presently under federal quarantine while researchers investigate biological controls, attractants, traps and pesticides that will aid in the eradication of the Emerald Ash Borer. Currently, the only known way to eliminate the EAB is, upon detection, to destroy and chip infected trees, and remove other ash trees in the vicinity to eliminate potential new host trees. To date more than $100 million has been spent on research, eradication and reforestation efforts. Regulated articles include hardwood firewood, nursery stock and green lumber of ash and other ash material including logs, stumps, roots, branches and chips.

EAB has had a devastating impact on communities that now face tremendous tree removal costs associated with dead or dying ash trees that pose a public safety threat. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service estimates that if EAB is not contained or eradicated it will cost state and local governments $7 billion over the next 25 years to remove and replace dying ash trees.

Maryland’s request for assistance came through the Eastern Plant Board, a regional organization of the plant pest regulatory agencies in the Northeast. New York has also utilized the network provided by the Eastern Plant Board following the discovery of the Asian Longhorned Beetle in 1996, at which time the State received similar assistance from a number of states in the Eastern Region that wanted to obtain practical experience in the survey and detection of that pest.

Ash is an important component of New York’s forest resource. It is valued for its strength, hardiness, weight, and elasticity. Ash has a variety of applications including interior finish, furniture, baseball bats and tool handles. It is often used as a shade or street tree in many communities.

2007 Press Releases