TATE TOWNSHIP, Ohio - Agnes Guy’s emotions behaved like a roller coaster Monday as she watched crews cut town decades-old trees on her Tate Township property in Clermont County.
On one hand, she was realistic because they were among the first removed due to infestation by the Asian longhorned beetle.
“As bad as I hate to see the trees go, I don’t want a yard full of infested trees,” she said.”
However, Guy was saddened because of her emotional attachment to them.
“My husband planted all of them,” she stated. “After all these trees are down it’s going to look like a subdivision.”
Plans have been announced to cut down as many as 50,000 trees, but new estimates released Monday put the number much higher than that.
Phase One involves removing 5,000 infested trees, according to Christine Markham of the United States Department of Agriculture.
“We started our eradication activities on Schaller Road,” she said. “There are 83 infested trees on 22 properties on the street.”
However, Dan Kenny of the Ohio Department of Agriculture said 50,000 trees may need to be cut down and that number may increase dramatically.
Markham said that could happen once an environmental assessment is done to determine how many other trees within a quarter mile radius of the infested trees are at risk for possibly hosting the beetle.
“A blind guess would tell you we’re not done with phase one, so we’re into hundreds of thousands of trees – host trees,” Kenny said.
That’s what concerns Bill Skvarla, owner of Harmony Hill Winery on Swing’s Corner-Point Isabel Road.
It was Skvalra who first noticed the Asian longhorned beetle in trees on his property this summer. One tree has already been cut down and he stands to lose a dozen more in his front yard.
However, what concerns him most is hundreds of trees in forested acres at the rear of his property that have been marked with blue dots. That means they could come out because they may host the Asian longhorned beetle in the future.
“They will essentially create a clear cut wasteland out here if that happens,” he said. “It will forever change this landscape.”
Markham insists taking the trees down and chipping the wood to a deregulated size is the most effective way to eliminate the infestation.
“If we don’t do that there’s so much at risk to the economy of the state, to the natural resources of the state and to the natural resources of the country,” she said. “We’re doing this because we have so much at stake if we let the Asian longhorned beetle continue to develop in the State of Ohio.”
Skvalra said he disagrees with that assessment.
“We’re saying there’s other science that shows you can balance prevention and preservation,” he said. “Remove the infested trees and treat the remaining healthy trees chemically in order to stop the spread of the Asian longhorned beetle in this part of the country.”
Several trees in Skvarla’s front yard have been painted with a green ring, which means they’ll be used in researching new ways to combat the problem.
“If they can figure out another way to stop this other than coming in and clear-cutting, I’m all for that,” he said.
Trees being cut down are being chipped to kill the beetle and the contractor can sell them for mulch or to be burned to generate electricity.
There’s no cost to property owners for the tree removal, but they don’t share in any money generated by sale of the chips.
Under state law, individuals cannot have the trees cut down and sell the wood because it’s in a quarantined area.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture has quarantined a 56-mile area.
U.S. Agriculture Department officials say the beetle got into the country from China via solid wood packing material.
The insect remains inside trees during the larva stage, then begin attacking the leaves and branches in the top third of the canopy.
Currently, visual inspection from the ground or air is the only way to determine if a tree is infested.
The beetles create holes the size of dimes in the trunk, gradually causing the entire tree to die.
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