Emerald Ash Borer Found Near Upper Valley

  • FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources shows an adult emerald ash borer. Researchers say the invasive beetle that's destroyed tens of millions of ash trees in the U.S. and Canada may have arrived in North America a decade before it first was detected. (AP Photo/Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, File) An adult emerald ash borer. ap

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/10/2018 1:48:42 PM
Modified: 9/11/2018 8:25:31 AM

Newbury, Vt. — Just months after its first documented appearance in Vermont, the range of the invasive emerald ash borer has been expanded to include the northern tip of the Upper Valley in Vermont, even as a Grafton County sighting has New Hampshire forestry officials considering shifting to a statewide quarantine zone.

Experts on both sides of the Connecticut River urged members of the public to protect the region’s ash trees by being aware of their proximity to known infestation sites, and by being smart about their ash firewood.

“We ask people within the known infested area to handle ash differently,” Barbara Schultz, the forest health program manager for the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, said Monday afternoon. “To not move firewood outside of the known infested area. If you’re having trees pruned, to not have the brush moved off the site.”

Last week, state infestation maps were updated to include the pest’s likely presence in Newbury; the confirmed infested area now includes parts of 14 central Vermont communities, and the high-risk area extends farther to include northern Corinth, and a bit of Bradford, Vt.

Schultz said past experience has shown that a radius of five miles around a sighting of the tiny green beetle should be considered infested; the recent discovery of EAB at a new site in Groton, Vt., caused officials to update their map to include a chunk of Newbury.

EAB lives beneath the bark of trees and chews around the circumference, eventually girdling the tree and preventing it from shuttling water along its trunk.

Schultz said federal USDA staff members are in the process of retrieving the contents of 609 purple-walled EAB traps that they deployed around the state after Vermont found its first bug in March. Suspected EAB finds are being sent to a laboratory for confirmation. 

In the meantime, the Vermont Department of Forestry is monitoring ash trees on state forest lands that it has intentionally girdled, for the purpose of attracting and identifying any EAB that might be in the area. 

Those detection efforts could lead to another expansion of the known infestation area this fall, said Schultz. 

Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, on Aug. 31, the UNH Cooperative Extension announced that the emerald ash borer was detected in Center Tuftonboro and Moultonborough in Carroll County and Bridgewater and Bristol in Grafton County, the first confirmed sighting in either of those two counties.

Since the emerald ash borer was first discovered in New Hampshire in Concord in 2013, the state has pursued a county-by-county quarantine, which restricted the transportation of wood products across county borders. 

“The goals of the EAB quarantine were to protect counties with significant ash resources, facilitate safe trade in ash for the wood products industry, and slow the human-assisted spread of EAB and ash mortality,” according to EAB materials on the website of the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension. “Quarantine does not affect natural population expansion, and the benefits of quarantine diminish as the EAB-infested area increases in size.”

Now, it’s time to move on from that strategy, said New Hampshire State Entomologist Piera Siegert. 

Today, “we have known EAB in 54 towns in seven” of 10 counties, she said.

Siegert said that, without the county quarantines, the ash borer would have likely spread more quickly.

“We’ve gotten six flight seasons out of it,” she said. 

But now, she and other state officials are proposing a shift to a statewide quarantine, which would allow the free movement of ash logs, ash chips, and ash nursery stock within the state. 

Those ash materials could also cross state lines with Vermont and Massachusetts, which also operate under federal EAB quarantine, though they would need certification to cross into Maine, which does not have a federal quarantine in effect. 

Out-of-state firewood, regardless of tree species, has been prohibited from entry into New Hampshire since 2011, and into Vermont since 2016; last month, New Hampshire updated its regulations to clarify that forest products like saw logs, chips, and craft wood are not considered firewood, to reduce the required temperature to treat firewood, and to change the ways in which someone can pursue an exemption.

“It doesn’t make sense to continue doing a focus on quarantines,” Siegert said. “All of the agencies agreed from the beginning that the quarantine was an initial and temporary part of the response. Now it’s time to focus on other parts of the response, including protection, biocontrol agents, and best management practices.”

Of the three N.H. counties that don’t have identified populations of the ash borer, Coos County has very little ash, while Cheshire and Sullivan County are surrounded by infested counties, making it unlikely a county quarantine would provide much help.

But Siegert said she and other forest pest management officials are not advocating relaxing vigilance — just the localized quarantine.

“We still recommend that you be very thoughtful and conscientious when moving firewood. Our recommendation would be not to move ash firewood,” she said. “Just because we may eliminate the quarantine doesn’t mean the risk has changed.”

Before moving forward with the change, the state of New Hampshire is hosting a public comment period, which will expire on Sept. 21.

So far, Siegert said, she’s received two comments. One, from a forester, agreed with the strategy shift, while a landowner in Cheshire County asked that the county-by-county quarantine be kept for a few years longer.

Dode Gladders, a forestry field specialist with the Extension’s Sullivan County office, said the quarantine change would not directly impact the way that landowners should manage their ash trees.

But the presence of emerald ash borer will.

“You need to get things ready for the arrival of emerald ash borer,” Gladders said. “Under most management plans, you’re generally going to go in every 15 years to do a thinning of some sort. If you’re close to where EAB is now, there’s a pretty good chance that if you’re going in this year, that any ash trees you leave behind won’t be there the next time you go in.”

Gladders advised that landowners access an infestation map on nhbugs.org to determine whether they live in a red, orange or green zone, and then follow best management practices for the appropriate category. 

The emerald ash borer made its first U.S. appearance in 2002, when it likely was carried from Asia to Michigan on shipping pallets. It kills ash trees within three to five years of infestation, and has already destroyed tens of millions in the U.S. and Canada. 

Emerald ash borer was first found in Vermont in the town of Orange in February. The Central Vermont communities that are considered to fall within the currently infested area are Moretown, Middlesex, Berlin, Montpelier, Barre, Plainfield, Marshfield, Groton, Washington, Orange, Topsham, Williamstown, Ryegate and Newbury.

An infested area has also been documented on Vermont’s southern border, and includes Stamford, Readsboro, Pownal and Woodford.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at mhonghet@vnews.com or 603-727-3211.

Correction

The emerald ash borer has been found in Groton, Vt., with a range likely to extend into neighboring Newbury. An earlier version of this story incorrectly said it has been found in Newbury. 




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