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Onondaga County may have to slow its Emerald Ash Borer plan

New York Invasive Species Information

Onondaga County’s ash tree management plan could be losing some momentum. The plan to take down or treat trees infected by the emerald ash borer could face cuts in its anticipated funding.

The Onondaga County Legislature Ways and Means Committee have balked at the $1 million bond that would pay for this year’s fight against the emerald ash borer infestation. They say $750,000 is a better figure in light of the county’s stagnant sales tax numbers. 

Travis Glazier, director of the Office of the Environment for Onondaga County, says if that happens, it’ll simply take longer to deal with the as many as 47,000 trees on county property that will die because of the invasive insect.

"From an approach standpoint, it just elongates the issue over a longer period of time. So it was a 10-year plan that turns into 15 or 20. And as you get into the latter years of that, the potential for issues related to falling trees becomes greater,” said Glazier.

Experts say the tiny green emerald ash borer, identified in central New York three years ago, will kill all the ash trees it infects. That’s what prompted the county to embark on the 10-year plan to take down trees in public areas, and inoculate thousands of others. So far, the county says it has taken care of 5 percent of the trees it’s targeted. 

Mark Burger, executive director of the Onondaga County Soil and Water District, which is coordinating efforts, says time is of the essence.

"We need to get these trees cut while they’re still alive. When a tree becomes dead and brittle, you can no longer use the cost effective means of putting a climber in a tree, you need to bring in cranes or other heavy equipment, and the price can triple,” said Burger.

The full legislature will have to sign off on spending.