Gillibrand joins fight against emerald ash borer beetle

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, is looking to step up the fight against the emerald ash borer.

On Tuesday, Gillibrand announced that is she is looking for more funding to help research, control and eradicate the emerald ash borer, an invasive insect threatening the 900 million ash trees in New York and throughout the country. There are no known methods to control the emerald ash borer.

Her request was made in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

“I am writing concerning the recent news that the Emerald Ash Borer is now confirmed to be present in 15 counties in New York State, Gillibrand wrote. “As I am sure you are aware, the emerald ash borer, which has the potential to destroy 7.5 percent of trees across the United States, is a small insect that infests and eventually kills ash trees, is continuing to spread, causing serious devastation to our trees, and potential harm to some of our wood industries.”

The infestation of the emerald ash borer, native to China, was first reported in New York state in 2009 when it was found in Randolph, Cattaraugus County. It has since been found in 14 other counties, including Ulster, Greene, Livingston, Monroe, Steuben, Genesee, Erie, Orange, Albany, Niagara, Dutchess and Tioga, and has now spread to Delaware and Otsego Counties.

New York’s forests are also a strong economic driver, according to a press release from Gillibrand’s office. The state’s forest industry employs more than 60,000 workers and generates approximately $4.6 billion to the state’s economy, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The insect is suspected of first entering the U.S. near Detroit in 2002, where it led to the killing of millions of ash trees in the Midwest, then making its way to 19 states. The beetle has the potential to destroy upwards of 7 percent of the state’s forests and 7.5 percent of trees across the United States.

“As the emerald ash borer continues to invade states that contain ash trees, there is concern that businesses, such as the logging industry and the wooden baseball bat industry, will be severely impacted,” she wrote. “For example, the Adirondack Division of the Rawlings Sporting Goods in Dolgeville, located in Herkimer County, is sitting in the middle of a State and Federal quarantine area designed to prevent the Emerald Ash Borer from spreading. These conditions have limited the supply of ash wood, which is the desirable material from which to make a baseball bat, putting the company’s production of those bats in danger.

“Due to the pervasive nature of this issue, I am asking for funding to be made available to assist the research, control and eradication of this population of insects that threaten the ash tree in New York and throughout the United States. If we are going to seriously address spread of the emerald ash borer, it is critical for the federal government to provide the necessary resources to reverse this trend.”