The emerald ash borer hits Addison County

BRISTOL — It has been confirmed: the emerald ash borer is destroying trees in Bristol village.
State officials notified the town on June 5.
Though the invasive and highly destructive beetle was first detected in Vermont in 2018, this is the first detection in the Champlain Valley, according to Bristol Town Administrator Valerie Capels.
The infested trees are located in a cluster on North Street, she said.
The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources has designated the area within a five-mile radius of sighting as the “confirmed infested area,” which includes five Addison County towns: Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton, New Haven and Starksboro.
Another nine county communities within a ten-mile radius of the sighting fall within the “high risk” area: Addison, Cornwall, Ferrisburgh, Middlebury, Panton, Ripton, Vergennes, Waltham and Weybridge.
The emerald ash borer (EAB), which is native to eastern and southeastern Asia, kills North American ash trees. It was first detected in the United States in 2002, in Detroit. By 2015 it had killed tens of millions of trees. According to the USDA, infestations have been recorded in 35 states and nearly 9 billion trees around the country are threatened.
The beetle damages ash trees by boring holes through the bark and into the outer wood. The EAB larvae feed so voraciously that the trees are prevented from moving water and carbohydrates around.
Because it takes infested trees three to five years to die — and because ashes are also susceptible to other pests and diseases — the EAB often goes undetected until it’s too late.
According to the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation, moving firewood is the number one cause of the spread of EAB, though some infestations have been traced to shipments of nursery trees or logs.
All of Vermont’s roughly 150 million ash trees, which account for about 5 percent of the state’s total tree population, fall within the federal EAB quarantine boundary.
Two days after the EAB detection, Capels and John Swepston, the town’s tree warden, met with Elise Schadler of the Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation and Addison County Forester Christopher Olson. Capels provided an overview of the situation at Monday night’s selectboard meeting, but the board did not take any action at that time.
Bristol plans to hold a public information meeting on the issue in early July, Capels said.
“We know that people in Bristol care deeply about their trees and that people will be heartbroken to know about this.”
According to a 2014 census there are 44 ash trees on town-owned land around the village. Bristol now needs to decide what to do with them.
Do we try to save them? Do we take them down? Are there some trees that are considered more valuable than others? If we take them down, what do we replace them with? There are lots of questions to be answered.”
The town of Middlebury started asking those questions three winters ago, before the first EAB was detected in Vermont. The town’s tree committee subsequently drafted a plan that proposed that in the event of an infestation:
•All dead ash trees, as well as those in poor condition, would be removed as soon as possible.
•Larger ash trees with a diameter of 24 inches or more (at breast height) would be treated with an insecticide.
•All other ash trees would be removed and replaced with alternative native trees, at a rate of two replacement trees per ash.
•The town’s budget should include an EAB line item until the ash borer is no longer considered a threat.
Tuesday night Middlebury tree warden Chris Zeoli and two members of the town’s tree committee, Judy Wiger-Grohs and Leslie Kameny, met with the town selectboard and emphasized the need to engage with that plan.
Having seen the effects of EAB in other regions, however, Zeoli didn’t hold out much hope for Middlebury’s trees.
“When it hits it’s devastating,” he said.
The EAB naturally spreads at a rate of 1 to 2 miles per year, but moving firewood around greatly increases that rate.
State officials are urging landowners to spread the “don’t move firewood” message and to be alert to possible infestations on their properties.
Anyone who thinks they might have discovered an EAB infestation is encouraged to report it by calling the emerald ash borer hotline at 1-800-322-4512.
More information can be found at the following websites:
•Vermont Agency of Natural Resources: anr.vermont.gov.
•Vermont Department of Forest, Parks & Recreation: fpr.vermont.gov.
•Vermont Invasives: vtinvasives.org.
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].

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