Pest Threat Focus Of Task Force Meeting

Chautauqua County Forest Pest Task Force members met at Roger Tory Peterson Institute on Wednesday to discuss the spread of invasive forest pests and ways of preventing or slowing that process. P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti

The threat of vegetative pests spreading even further into the area is a message that the Chautauqua County Forest Pest Task Force wants to gain traction in the public consciousness.

Task force members met Wednesday at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute to discuss a variety of topics including the spread of emerald ash borer (EAB) and subsequent die back of ash, hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) and upcoming surveys and citizen science training opportunities.

“These invasive species are a very real threat to our forests, not just the trees along our city streets and in our backyards,” said Becky Nystrom, a founder and board member of the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy.

“It’s important that we get this message out to as many people as we can to make them aware of our trees in a preventive manner.”

The Chautauqua County Forest Pest Task Force is a volunteer organization comprised of forestry professionals, scientists, natural resource managers, local officials and private citizens. It was organized to facilitate a science-based response to the ecological, economic and public safety impacts of invasive forest pests within Chautauqua County’s forests and communities.

Also among topics discussed were oak wilt and other new diseases or pests impacting local, regional and state forests. Updates to reported forest pest locations in New York state were the appearance of HWA in two trees in the Adirondacks near Lake George, while Jeff Brocklebank, senior forester with the Department of Environmental Conservation, noted a statewide increase of quarantine areas since earlier this year.

“This summer we’ve seen lots more dead ash trees all over but it can especially be seen in Jamestown; so it’s definitely here,” Brocklebank said. “The city’s arborist, Dan Stone, is trying to manage as best he can with what he has. The problem is that there can still be EAB remnants inside a tree even if it’s dead, so the best thing that can be done is to have it chipped on-site. But since most municipalities don’t have the money available for that kind of removal it would be nice if we could introduce some kind of central chipping location for the disposal of these trees. I think that as things start to reach critical mass, that’s a real possibility.”

Brocklebank also reported the difficulty he has had in coordinating with various municipalities, namely in the fact that he is having an extremely difficult time finding who, if anyone, is in charge of the trees in each municipality. He said it’s hard to create a cohesive communal network in Chautauqua and the surrounding counties when many municipalities don’t inventory their trees or track the presence of pests.

Hugh Golden, Lake View Cemetery’s office manager, was also in attendance to hear about the task force’s initiatives. He said the cemetery has done little in the way of updating its tree inventory since it was last completed in about 1999. Since that time, he said, several trees have been removed and added and it’s going to be quite a process to bring the cemetery back up to date with its current inventory.

“We’re in a position now where we have a lot of work to do,” he said.

Golden said the cemetery is looking into grants for funding to help them re-inventory, and added that Chautauqua Region Community Foundation has offered a grant to help the cemetery identify areas that need work.

Elyse Henshaw, conservation technician for Roger Tory Peterson Institute, brought up an HWA citizen-scientist training session to be held at RTPI on Nov. 1. She said the session is open to people interested in learning more about HWA, its location and what can be done to reduce its spread. It is a precursor to the HWA early detection surveys conducted by RTPI, in conjunction with the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy and Jamestown Community College, which typically take place from December through March.

The task force members concluded by tentatively scheduling its next meeting for Dec. 13, weather depending, and stated their intent to follow up either way with a March meeting to provide further updates.