Several years ago, it was the gypsy moth caterpillar that threatened the health of the trees throughout the region. Now, another invasive species of insect is causing widespread damage in our area and the impact of this infestation is hitting especially hard at Hidden Valley Scout Reservation.
The Emerald ash borer (EAB) is an exotic beetle that was discovered in southeastern Michigan in the summer of 2002. The adult beetles nibble on ash foliage but cause little damage. The larvae (the immature stage) feed on the inner bark of ash trees, disrupting the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients, killing the tree in the process. Millions of trees have been killed by EAB in the United States.
EAB probably arrived in the United States on solid wood packing material carried in cargo ships or airplanes originating in its native Asia. As the spread of EAB continues, so does the damage. Over the past couple years, you may have heard public service announcements asking people not to transport firewood – all part of an effort to slow the spread of EAB in Pennsylvania.
Unfortunately, EAB has reached Hidden Valley, where ash trees are abundant (there are fewer ash trees at Camp Tuckahoe). The damage being caused by EAB is widespread and devastating. Where EAB larvae have been present, bark can be seen falling off the sides of trees (please see the pictured tree marked with the gold arrow).
In trying to manage an infestation of EAB in a forested area like Hidden Valley, experts tell us the best course of action, sadly, is to remove as many of the ash trees as we can, as quickly as possible. Once EAB has infested a tree, the rotting tree becomes a hazard in a camp setting. To keep our campers safe from falling branches or weakened trees coming down, we are immediately embarking on a process to remove the ash trees at Hidden Valley.
The work will be done in two phases. With the guidance of professional foresters, the first step will be to remove high-hazard ash trees from areas of camp most likely to see regular usage by campers. This will be done prior to the beginning of the 2016 summer camp season.
The second phase will be to remove trees in less camper-intensive areas. This will occur over a longer period of time.
This tree-removal process is a much bigger task than we can perform ourselves, so the council will be contracting with professional tree cutters to remove the ash trees from Hidden Valley. Timbering is notoriously a messy operation and we will work as diligently as we can to mitigate the impact on Hidden Valley’s overall appearance this summer and going forward. We anticipate receiving some monies from the trees that are being removed, either for lumber or pulpwood. Any proceeds that we will receive (and then some) will most likely be used in the process of grinding up tree tops and those branches that have no timber value and will be left by the removal crews on site.
Before the tree removal process gets underway, we wanted to let everyone know what was happening and why it is necessary. Unfortunately for us and other landowners, the damage caused to our woodlands by the Emerald ash borer will not be over any time soon.
Yours in Scouting,