More than 20 million ash trees in Connecticut are at risk now that a destructive beetle called the Emerald Ash Borer has been discovered in Naugatuck and Prospect.
The discovery, announced Friday by state environmental officials, is disturbing news in Connecticut, where ash trees make up anywhere between 4 and 15 percent of forest area and is a common urban tree. The beetle has been responsible for the destruction of tens of millions of ash trees nationwide since it first entered the country in 2002, according to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
State officials said they had anticipated the beetle would make its way into Connecticut, but never expected it would first be discovered in the middle of the state. However, the beetles were recently discovered near a school park in Prospect and on Hunters Mountain Road in the Naugatuck State Forest near the Oxford border.
The discovery, which was revealed by DEEP and the Connecticut Agriculture Experiment Station (CAES) on Friday, makes Connecticut the 15th state that must try to stop the beetle from spreading in an effort to save trees. And now, the government is taking extreme measures to control the problem, including asking state troopers to pull over trucks that are bringing wood into Connecticut from Massachusetts or New York and making them turn around.
DEEP and CAES announced in a news release that they are working to put the following proactive steps, aimed at preventing the spread of the beetle, into effect immediately:
- A quarantine zone that would prohibit the movement of certain wood products out of New Haven County, the area in which EAB has now been detected
- A ban on the importation of firewood into Connecticut through New York or Massachusetts – unless it is properly certified or has not come from an area of infestation
- Additional detection traps – known as “Barney” traps becaue of their purple color – in the Prospect and Naugatuck areas to monitor the presence of EAB and help assess their presence
- A “delimiting” survey to help determine the area in which EAB is present and the extent of the infestation
- Suspension of all timber contracts and firewood permits for state forest lands in New Haven County
- A survey with federal agencies to determine how long the EAB infestation has been present in our state, information which will help determine best strategies for addressing it
DEEP will also maintain a ban that has been in place against bringing any firewood into state parks and forests. Wood is made available at these facilities for campers.
In a prepared statement, DEEP Commissioner Daniel C. Esty said: “We are taking the first presence of EAB in our state very seriously, and are taking all steps to stop the spread of this pest in Connecticut and throughout New England. We will direct all necessary resources to this effort. The quarantine, the restrictions on movement of firewood and other actions we will take are designed to help protect our trees and the beauty of our forests, parks, communities and neighborhoods.” (See the attached video for more information from Esty and other state officials.)
CAES Director Louis A. Magnarelli added: “CAES will work with DEEP and other partners to address the threat posed by EAB. Scientists on our staff are fully engaged in this issue and will continue to help develop and implement the best strategies for dealing with this threat to our natural resources.”
The EAB is a small and destructive beetle, metallic green in color, and approximately a half-inch long and an eighth of an inch wide. Adults emerge from the bark of infested trees leaving a small “D”-shaped exit hole roughly an eigth-of an inch in diameter. This insect is native to Asia and was first discovered in the Detroit, Mich., and Windsor, Ontario, regions of North America in 2002. It has since spread through the movement of firewood, solid-wood packing materials, infested ash trees, and by natural flight dispersal. (See the attached PDF for more information about the beetle and how to stop the spread.)
Esty and Magnarelli said the quarantine on the movement of wood from New Haven County will be established immediately after a required public hearing on the issue is held. Plans are being made to hold that hearing as soon as legally possible, DEEP officials said.
They also said the prohibitions on the importation of firewood will be put in place through emergency state regulations, which will be presented to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy for his signature within the next few days.
The ban can be imposed on firewood traveling through New York and Massachusetts because they are areas where infestations of invasive insects have already taken place – with EAB in New York and a second insect, the Asian Long Horned Beetle, having been found in Massachusetts.
Firewood with certification showing it has not come from an infected area – or has been properly treated to kill insects – will be exempt from the ban.
Friday's information did not come as a surprise to representatives of the Connecticut Water Co., which owns thousands of acres in local towns including Naugatuck, Prospect, Bethany, Thomaston, Middlebury, Beacon Falls and Plymouth.
Pat Corbett, superintendent of the Naugatuck office for Connecticut Water, said the company's land use manager knows about this issue and that Connecticut Water has a forest management company that is constantly monitoring the company's forest land.
Naugatuck Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi said the borough will be working closely with state and federal officials to follow their guidelines, recommendations and restrictions.
"It sounds like they have a very solid plan, and we'll be communicating with them and doing anything we can to assist them in identifying problem areas and making sure that if there are any trees that fall within borough property, that we're certainly going through the process of identifying and disposing of them properly to help stop the spread any further," she said.