April 24th, 2014
By Stephanie Choate
Williston Ash Walk Sunday, tagging Monday
A group of town, state and national organizations is hoping to mobilize locals to be on the looking for an invasive pest that could signal the deaths of thousands of Williston trees.
April 27 – May 3 marks Vermont’s Ash Tree Awareness Week, organized by a joint effort between University of Vermont Extension, the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and local communities.
The group is hosted ash walks and tagging events across the state, including two events in Williston.
“The purpose is really to draw attention to how many ash trees there are and how important ash trees are to our communities,” said Caitlin Cusack, UVM Extension urban and community forestry outreach specialist.
Cusack said Vermont has an estimated 160 million ash trees, including white, green and black ash.
Emerald ash borers were first discovered in Michigan in 2002, and have spread rapidly, killing millions of ash trees. The invasive beetles are expected to reach Vermont.
Forestry professionals say most residents in infested states don’t act until they start seeing dead trees. The awareness week is intended to increase the number of people who notice ash trees and look for Emerald ash borers, spurring communities to start planning for the devastating effects on ash trees and individuals to volunteer in forest management and care.
Environmental Planner Jessica Demar said approximately 42 percent of Williston’s street trees are ash, so the town will be “greatly affected” by the ash borer. Williston has already mapped its ash trees…..
Ash’s quick growth and salt tolerance has made them a popular pick for municipal planting, Cusack said. But towns could lose great swaths of trees with the arrival of the Emerald ash borer—changing aesthetics and losing shade and natural control of erosion and stormwater.
Chittenden County Forester Keith Thompson will lead an ash awareness walk around Lake Iroquois on April 27. The walk is set for 10 a.m. to noon, meeting at the Lake Iroquois boat launch on Beebe Lane.
Thompson will lead the walk on the Lake Iroquois Recreational District land along Beebe Lane and on forest trails near Lake Iroquois. Walkers will learn to identify ash up close and from a distance, as well as some other tree species. Attendees will learn and discuss the value of ash at this site for wildlife, water quality, aesthetics, forest health and possible problems if ash trees are killed by Emerald ash borers.
On April 28 at 10 a.m., representatives from the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation will tag approximately 40 trees along Marshall Avenue and Maple Tree Place. Each tag includes the monetary benefits of that tree and how people can get involved. According to vtinvasives.com, a 12-foot ash tree provides an estimated $131 in benefits annually, including filtering air pollutants, mitigating stormwater runoff, increasing property values and more. Ash wood is also used to make tools and baseball bats and as firewood. The trees also improve water quality, benefit wildlife and provide shade.
Cusack said they hope to get communities involved in searching for the Emerald ash borer. Early detection can help slow the spread of the pest and buy more time for research, she said.
“With many of these pests, it’s been alert citizens, not scientists that have found them,” Cusack said. “We need people to look up, look out for the ash borer.”