Tree Project Takes Root In Port City

OSWEGO, NY – “It is a no-brainer,” Oswego Mayor Tom Gillen said of taking care of the Port City’s trees.

“They look good, improve property values and they make oxygen,” he said.

Andy Hillman, regional business developer for the Davey Research Group, echoed the mayor’s sentiments.

“So if somebody said, ‘We would like to install some new infrastructure in the city to help with the stormwater mitigation, purify the air, produce oxygen for everyone, save energy and create well-being.’ What would you pay for something like that?” he asked rhetorically at a meeting this week to discuss the situation. Nealy two dozen people attended the meeting at City Hall.

Trees do all that and more, very efficiently, he said – as long as you care for them.

The New York State DEC awarded Oswego an Urban and Community Forest Grant of $25,000 for a tree inventory of the Port City’s street tree and planting site GIS I-Ped (Inventory-Pest Early Detection) and to establish a benchmark of the number and condition relative to size, health and age of the trees in the city. Davey Resource Group was selected by the council.

Davey was founded in 1880.

It is an historic venture, Hillman said.

“The last inventory for the city of Oswego was done (by Davey) in 1931 in July. So here we are now conducting an I-PED inventory; this is a utility that was developed by the Forest Service,” he said. “It is designed to find pests that are in urban forests because they come into urban forests first off and then they spread out and eat through everything. So it is important to detect them early.”

The inventory is “very important,” according to June MacArthur, one of Oswego’s tree stewards.

“We cannot manage a resource well without first identifying it, which is the main purpose of the inventory. Apparently that was what Oswego wanted in 1931 when Davey last did one for the city,” Hillman said. “This one includes early pest detection and that is important not just for the city but also for the state and region.”

“We need to know what percentage of each tree that could be killed by invasive species. We need to know that to plan and fight these bugs,” MacArthur added. “To wait until the large trees have been affected by the EAB (emerald ash borer) could make the take-down of such trees more dangerous and expensive.”

Emerald ash borer is a small invasive green beetle that infests and kills all species of ash (Fraxinus) trees. EAB has been in the US since the mid-1990s and was likely introduced through wood packing material in Michigan where it was discovered in 2002.

The first discovery in New York was in 2009 in Randolph, Cattaraugus County. It has since been found in 16 other counties in New York, now including Onondaga County.

Ash trees are commonly found as street trees, along roadsides, in yards and forests throughout the region.

There are several dangerous insects that could be on the verge of arriving in the Port City, Hillman cautioned.

Mark Whitmore, Ph.D., is the forest entomologist with the Cornell University Department of Natural Resources.

“The thing to take away at this juncture is the fact that less than three percent of New York’s forests are currently infested with EAB. It’s a tiny, tiny amount compared to what we have. So we are in the very beginning stages of what will be, without any question in my mind, an economic disaster to communities throughout New York State,” he said. “There is always a lag time between the first news of the bug and when people really start to pay attention. And by then, it is already way too late.”

A lot of the roads in New York are rural, he pointed out.

“Roads and power lines, those are areas that are heavily stocked in ash,” he said. “When ash trees die, they fall down – in chunks. That creates a big liability.”

There are 106,000 miles of transmission lines in the state that are vulnerable to trees falling on them, he said.

Just think, conservatively, if 20 percent of the trees next to them are ash, he continued.

“The ratepayers will be responsibility for $1.5 billion, conservatively to control the ash trees and maintain the power structure, power grid, in the state,” according to Whitmore.

Oswego needs to make plans now so it knows what to do when an invasive species finally arrives, he added.

“You’ll already be ready with an answer. You won’t be back-peddling. When you’re proactive and ready to go you can implement your plan and the costs will be much lower,” he explained.

It has been shown to be less costly to treat trees with insecticides rather than remove them, he said.

“The best thing for Oswego to do is start your inventory now so you know where your liabilities are and you’ll be ready to go when (an invasive species) arrives,” he said.

Meetings Planned In Onondaga County

Early detection of emerald ash borer has resulted in Onondaga County moving from a preparation phase into a response phase.

An inventory of ash trees on county-owned property has been on-going, and more than 4,700 have been identified at Onondaga Lake Park. A strategy for ash tree management in the park is in development and the public is invited to attend two meetings to provide input.

Public meetings will be held on September 26 at the Liverpool Fire Hall, 1110 Oswego St., village of Liverpool at 6:30 p.m. and on October 2 at the Lakeside Fire House, 1014 State Fair Boulevard in Lakeland in the town of Geddes at 6:30 p.m.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Onondaga County and the Onondaga County Soil & Water Conservation District, who have been assisting the county in preparing for the arrival of EAB, will be participating in the meetings with the county, and will help answer questions people might have about EAB and the management options that are available.