Stately, shade-providing ash trees are under attack in Upper Pottsgrove and much of Pennsylvania
By Chloe Klaus
Contributing Reporter for The Post
UPPER POTTSGROVE PA – A potential infestation by a half-inch-long glittering green-colored beetle threatens to kill a substantial portion of mature forest growth in Upper Pottsgrove’s Sussell Park, off Snyder Road; as well as on Fox Hill, off North Hanover Street, and in Prout Farm Park, off Moyer Road, township officials warn.
The pest that’s at the center of such mayhem is the emerald ash borer, which the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) has all but declared as Public Tree Enemy No. 1. “Tens of millions of ash trees have been lost to this pest,” one of its web page explains.
Officially, the borer hasn’t yet arrived in our neck of the woods, township Manager Carol R. Lewis reports, but tree experts have told her its move into the Pottstown area is inevitable. Some forested areas bordering Montgomery County have already been affected. It appears to be only a matter of time until the borer digs in locally.
That’s troublesome, Lewis notes, because she reports 98 percent of Sussell is covered by the prominent, native ash trees. They blanket 88 percent of Fox Hill, and 65 percent of Prout. Worse yet, only 2 percent of ash trees are expected to be immune to the borer’s damage.
As a result, the township is planning a proactive response that may treat or remove specific trees, plant new species under a re-foresting program, and encourage greater growth of immune-proven trees.
Upper Pottsgrove eyes early logging to battle emerald ash borer (Pottstown Mercury; Aug. 23, 2015)
Upper Pottsgrove officials last week voted to look into having the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry mark all ash trees on property owned or controlled by the township.
The borer is a relative newcomer among North American forestry gangsters, the U.S. Forest Service said. It arrived on the continent sometime in the 1990s, brought here by trade with Asia, and was first reported killing white, green, black and pumpkin ash trees in Michigan during 2002. Since then it’s spread across Ohio, northern Indiana, Chicago, Maryland, and most recently into Pennsylvania.
Ash trees become infected when the borer bears larvae that feed beneath the tree bark. The resulting destruction kills the host trees within 3-to-5 years by literally eating them from within. When the trees die, they become so brittle that removing them becomes both difficult and dangerous. Loggers are unable to climb dead ash trees and cut them from the top because they are prone to snap underneath.
Chemically controlling the insect, and removing a select number of still-healthy trees chosen by experts as having the greatest chance of being infected later, both are part of DCNR’s 2013 plan to “selectively manage” the infestation. More aggressive measures, also outlined in the DCNR document, include substituting non-ash species.
Upper Pottsgrove’s response relies on parts of several management techniques described by the state, which the department believes will help balance and lower overall management costs and protect the greatest amount of what it calls “urban canopy cover.”
Cost is definitely a factor in the management equation, Lewis agrees.
She estimates removal will cost about $800 per tree … except for those near power lines, in which case the price rises. Ash trees most likely to be removed, primarily for public safety reasons, are those growing along roads or trails, and near buildings. No dates have been set for the start of the removal process, but it could happen through the winter.
Chemical treatment can be less expensive, between $300 and $800 per tree, but it must be repeated every two years.
Reforesting will be important where the damage is highest, probably in Sussell. Trees used for a re-planting effort there are expected to be purchased with the help of a DCNR “Tree-Vitilize” grant, according to Lewis.
The happy news is that the wood from uninfected trees can be sold, and the revenue they generate can help offset some of the bill.
- Pottstown area leaders aim to combat ash borer (Reading Eagle; Aug. 27, 2015)
About The Author
Chloe Klaus is a Pottsgrove High School graduate. She plans on attending Swarthmore College in the fall. Chloe is an active community member and an aspiring writer.
Photos from Google Images