SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – Over the last few years, we have all watched the incredible spread of the Asian Longhorn Beetle throughout Central and Eastern Massachusetts. Despite the best efforts of the USDA in removing over 10,000 trees, the beetles have recently been identified as far to the east as Boston. The Greater Worcester area has been at the epicenter of the infestation, and here in Shrewsbury neighborhood like West Hills have just been decimated – not by the beetles, but by the buzz saws of the USDA.
Everyone can agree that the eradication of these pests is and should be a priority, yet many have come to question the logic of removing rather than treating an infested tree, and moreover the USDA policy of removing completely healthy trees, many on private property, that are within a half mile of the single tree which had the infestation. The USDA would say that the best way to eradicate is to cut down all trees that the ALB likes to eat, within a huge distance around a known infestation. I suppose in a way, there is some logic behind that, yet if the fear is that the beetles will eat and kill such a tree, I’m not sure that killing them all ourselves can be considered a victory over the beetles. I know that thought will upset many in the USDA, and I’m sorry….but if people are getting bit on the ankle by rattlesnakes in Arizona, I don’t believe the “treatment” should be the removal of legs from anyone in an area where such a bite occurred, but rather the removal of the snakes.
As a Realtor, I can speak to the fact that the removal of large shade trees on a property, and within a neighborhood, has a drastic impact on the marketability of the property – and this is not solved by having the USDA replant a six foot tall tree that will take 30 years to grow. Now, if a tree is infected, I can certainly understand needing to get rid of it but the thought that because an infective maple tree was found a half mile from your house, means that the Federal Government can come on your property, against your specific direction, find no beetles, and still cut down every maple tree is simply ridiculous. There are many other methods which exist to treat for the beetles, and no doubt experts are working day in and day out to come up with others.
Across the nation, many neighborhoods have gone to court to fight the removal of “non-infected” host trees, and in Cincinnati a law firm had the courage to step in and fight the USDA, ultimately getting them to agree to treat, rather than remove non-infected trees. Andy Brownfield, a Reporter for the Cincinnati Business Courier, put together a great article on their work, that I thought I’d share with you. No idea is perfect, and some question the use of any pesticides as being harmful to the environment, but I think before we destroy another 10,000 trees, and before the buzz saws show up in your yard, it might be helpful to see that property owners do have some rights, and the ability to think about the environment, without necessarily just submitting a somewhat draconian system that tells you that their way is the only way. If they don’t speak up, then before long, all of our trees will be gone….and then I guess we can declare “victory” against the tree eating beetle!
The Asian Long-horned Beetle has been munching on trees in Clermont County.
Imagine scenic Clermont County, only with 2 million fewer trees.
That’s what worried a grassroots group when they heard the U.S. Department of Agriculture was trying to find a way to stop the spread of an invasive, tree-eating beetle.
In the summer of 2011, the Asian Long-horned Beetle was discovered in Clermont. The beetle attacks and in many cases kills 12 different species of tree.
When citizens heard that the USDA was considering cutting down every tree within a half-mile of infested trees – 2.2 million on more than 3,800 acres – they formed the ALB Citizens’ Cooperative and retained Strauss Troy attorney Brian O’Connell to represent them.
“While the group agrees that the Asian Long-horned Beetle needs to be eradicated from Ohio, our approach involves a balance of eradication and preservation,” O’Connell said in a news release.
In May of this year, the USDA identified a chemical treatment for the eradication of the bugs, which will be used on high-risk trees within a half-mile of known infestations. That means Clermont County property owners don’t have to worry about the feds coming in and chopping down trees without their consent.
“It’s encouraging that the USDA was able to see the forest for the trees and acknowledge both that a balanced approach of eradication and preservation will work, and every bit as important, acknowledge the property rights of individual owners,” O’Connell said.