By Steven H. Foskett, Jr.
Worcester, MA (November 24, 2009)- Local, state, and federal officials met with residents last night to discuss the latest in the city’s battle against the Asian longhorned beetle. The wide-ranging discussion at Quinsigamond Community College touched on everything from tree replanting efforts to the environmental impact of a chemical the U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to use in the spring to protect host trees from the invasive insect, which kills the trees it bores through and was first discovered in 2008 in the Greendale area of the city.
More than 25,000 trees have been lost to the infestation so far, and a regulated area includes all of Worcester and West Boylston, and parts of Shrewsbury, Holden and Boylston. The most intensely infested areas have been in the Greendale-Indian Lake area, and Jeffrey Daley, a senior policy adviser with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, said when the chemical treatments begin in the spring, the notification process will be similar to what officials did while telling people they had infested trees on their property – officials will go door to door and ask permission to perform the treatments on private property.
Eric Seaborn, an urban forestry expert with the DCR, said the state will use stimulus funds to help rebuild the urban forest and make it healthier. He said 548 trees have been replanted so far this year. He said the DCR will work with property owners on selecting and locating replacement trees, and said the replanting effort is focusing on reforesting in the areas where the first trees were cut down.
Robert L. Moylan, commissioner of public works and parks, said the City Council’s Public Works Committee tonight will be discussing adopting a best practices policy of replanting public trees under power lines. He said the city will generally refrain from replanting under power lines, but said the new policy will not be a strict prohibition. In general, though, he said any trees replanted under power lines will be lower and slower-growing than the towering maples that were once there.
Also, he said the city will make use of a law that allows it to plant, with the property owner’s permission, a public tree in the first 20 feet back from the right of way on private property. “It will be the right tree, the right place,” Mr. Moylan said.
People in the audience voiced concerns about the power line replanting issue, and questioned the USDA’s willingness to use imidacloprid, a pesticide that will be injected into the trunks of host trees susceptible to the Asian longhorned beetle. Other people in the audience brought up other concerns, including the condition of sidewalks.
Leominster beekeeper Dean E. Stiglitz cited numbers mentioned by officials that the number of new beetle discoveries appears to declining. He said the money spent on the pesticide application could be put back into beefing up surveying and tree removal efforts.
Robert Baca, who handles pest control compliance for the USDA, said the pesticide has proven safe to humans, and said only small amounts have been detected in things such as falling leaves from a tree injected with imidacloprid. He said that without the pesticide, the city could continue to have a low-level infestation that could carry on for years, and would continue to threaten the vast forests of the Northeast.
State Rep. James J. O’Day, D-West Boylston, moderated the forum, which also included U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester, and Peggy Middaugh, project coordinator for the Worcester Tree Initiative.
Worcester Telegram- Planting trees topic of talk