Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) has arrived in Onondaga County and will eventually kill every ash tree not inoculated to protect them against EAB infestation. The prospect of the loss of all ash trees in the County (approximately 1 out of every 9 trees) carries with it potentially significant ecological, recreational, economic, public safety and quality of life implications.
The goal of managing ash trees on County-owned land includes cost-effectively: 1) ensuring public safety; and 2) retaining some of the ecological and social benefits that the ash trees currently provide. A proposed Comprehensive Ash Tree Management Strategy has been developed to guide the County’s efforts to manage ash trees on County-owned property, and is now under consideration.
The County began preparing for the arrival of EAB in earnest in 2012 when the County Executive requested that the County Legislature appropriate funding to carry out an inventory of ash trees on County-owned property, an essential first step in developing this comprehensive ash tree management strategy. (Portions of the inventory were funded by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Environmental Protection Fund). During the past two years the County has also been reaching out to communities across the United States that have already been dealing with or preparing for an EAB invasion, with the intent that the County’s ash tree management strategy reflect and integrate the insights and lessons learned from communities that have been dealing with EAB infestations for a number of years. This effort was enhanced in 2013 by a collaborative effort with the Syracuse University Maxwell School. The “Capstone Student Project” involved graduate students from the Syracuse University Maxwell School of Communication who interviewed and engaged in conversations with urban forestry and municipal park staff and other City and County officials in 18 states, generating 32 case studies of how they have been dealing with or preparing for the Emerald Ash Borer.
The options available to the County for dealing with EAB and ash trees on County-owned property are relatively straightforward, and include: 1) preemptive removal prior to tree mortality; 2) protection and preservation of ash trees with pesticides; and 3) planting of new, non-host trees to replace the functions provided by those trees lost to EAB. These same options are available to, and need to be considered by private property owners.