Column, Tree Talk

Our towns are now high risk areas for EAB

By Gary Salmon

Maps are windows to our world. The more colorful the more interesting. They tell us where we have been and can even direct us to future actions. Two come to mind that have been useful this year. The weekly Tuesday Covid-19 maps of Vermont continued to stay the same color while a kaleidoscope of colors surrounded us in adjacent states. This map guided my efforts all summer to schedule family visits leading to both planned and canceled get togethers in and out of Vermont. Sadly, it may guide our actions well into 2021.

Also sobering is the map of Vermont emerald ash borer (EAB) infestations. Since the original outbreak in 2018 maps have been issued to help communities track the spread of the infection as it methodically envelopes Vermont.

Fortunately for central Vermont these focal centers, (green, tan and red concentric areas) have stayed well above and below us until this fall when in October an infection center was discovered in West Rutland. This first outbreak in Rutland County eliminates the guess work about when EAB will be close enough to our towns to take action. It is now.

This discovery moves all towns within 5 miles of the confirmed infection are into a “high risk” category with a much higher probability that infestations will occur sooner than later. As the crow flies this latest infection center now includes the edges of Shrewsbury, Killington, and most of Mendon. Since West Rutland is west of all these towns, due to prevailing winds one could expect EAB to get here via air mail within a couple of growing seasons if it is not already present.

Towns should have by now at least completed their roadside ash surveys to determine just how many ash trees will challenge both road budgets and those involved in removal and disposal. Using Shrewsbury data as an example of what a town might be facing from EAB here are the facts:

Of the 39 town roads, just three are without some ash trees on them.

There are 1,978 total ash along Shrewsbury’s roads.

Of this total, 1,200 are high risk (most of crown leaning or over road).

508 also involve wires as potential targets.

So while these insects are dormant and in place for the winter (unless infected ash is transported into an area by moving firewood or other ash products) action in 2021 will be at a higher level than when our maps showed EAB locations much farther away.

At a minimum towns should be looking much harder for infested ash since the probability is now higher that it will be found. Google Vermont EAB and a whole host of information appears regarding ash trees and their relationship to homeowners, forest landowners, and municipalities including the state’s “slow the spread recommendations.”

Remember infestation is a slow process and will not consume a given town in one summer but unless planned for it will sadly guide our actions in 2021 and beyond.

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