AMELIA, Ohio - If you drive through the Bethel area of Clermont County you'll probably see a lot of trees wrapped in blue ribbons.
The garnishment was a protest started by Bill Skvarla against a plan by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that he says would chop down healthy 'at risk' trees that stood within a half mile of other trees infested with Asian Longhorned Beetles.
"We were angry," Skvarla said. "Our whole goal is to save the healthy trees."
After plenty of public feedback — over 200 comments — the government knew it was on the hotseat.
"I feel like we still are," said Phil Baldauf, who manages the Ohio beetle project for the USDA.
The government reworked the program's possibilities. Baldauf feels the new plan's options are an improvement.
"We've made a lot of headway," he said. "We're listening to the public before we make a decision."
The USDA now says they might remove infested trees and then treat the nearby "high risk" trees with pesticide injected directly into the trunks, according to the Revised Environmental Assessment document released Wednesday.
"It's a preference of the agency," said Baldauf.
Skvarla says that's good news.
"That's a big step in the right direction as far as we're concerned," he said.
But he knows the new option isn't as done deal.
The public has 30 days to comment on the plan, after which the government will decide how to proceed.
"We're cautiously optimistic," Skvarla said.
Baldauf says treating healthy trees has proven successful in Chicago.
"I do feel we have a chance here," he said.
In which case the blue ribbons might proclaim victory rather than protest.
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