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Emerald Ash Borer Task Force looking to expand into other counties

Onondaga Emerald Ash Borer Task Force
Flyers like this one are being handed out by the Onondaga Emerald Ash Borer Task Force.

Onondaga County’s Emerald Ash Borer Task Force is trying to take a more regional approach as it tries to corral the spread of the invasive insect.

The task force has been on the trail of the Emerald Ash Borer, or EAB, for three years now, so when it showed up in parts of Syracuse and DeWitt last summer, local governments started an aggressive campaign to take down or treat infested ash trees.

Since then, Jesse Lyons, a task force member from the Cornell Cooperative Extension, says areas they know are infected has quadrupled and is often getting very close to county lines.  

While Onondaga County and the city of Syracuse are undertaking aggressive policies to either take trees down or treat them with pesticides, Lyons says neighboring counties also need to join the fight, because the bug spreads so quickly.

“Everything that we’re doing locally has an impact on our neighbor, and visa versa, Lyons explained. "When it comes to management of a resource on such a large scale, it’s really important to have collaboration and networking.”

So the task force is looking to expand into Cayuga, Oswego, Oneida, Madison and Cortland counties, most of which are only in the early stages of discussing the issue.

"Because we had the task force in place, we deployed extra traps, we were able to find the infestation faster," Lyons said. "Our neighboring counties don’t have that luxury because they don’t have that effort to have the task force that can put the traps out and inspect them. The sooner you know the information, the better it is for early detection and management and it’s going to be cheaper for your community to manage.”

Lyons says an expanded task force can also share resources and make sure that waste wood isn’t transported to neighboring counties, which can spread the insect.

She also says she hopes creating a more regional organization can better track the insect, which will infest and kill all untreated ash trees in its path.

“We’ve made a lot of progress with Onondaga County’s task force, and we want to share those resources and the lessons we’ve learned," she said. "But there’s also the possibility of collaborating with other counties with things we aren’t addressing, that the other counties might be better suited to address. So we hope we can join forces, get other counties started on their own group and be able to regionalize our efforts to be more impactful.”

Emerald Ash Borer can kill a tree within a year of symptoms showing up, and has decimated trees in the Midwest. It’s estimated that 11 percent of the trees in Onondaga County are ash trees, all will die from the insect unless they are treated.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.