Indian Time - A Voice from the Eastern Door

Community can participate in project that could slow devastation of local ash tree population


The emerald ash borer invasive species is expected to kill most, if not all of the local ash trees, but the Tribe’s Environment Division is looking for volunteers for an effort that might slow them down.

The invasive species kills every tree it infects, meaning about 14.5 percent of Akwesasne’s trees will be killed or removed over the coming years, according to a document from the Environment Division. The ash tree plays a significant role in Akwesasne and its sweetgrass – splint basket making culture.

Aaron Barrigar, one of the Division’s Forestry technicians, said they want community members who are willing to allow their ash trees to be girdled.

That involves cutting out a piece of bark from ash trees five to 10 inches in diameter.

“It slowly kills the tree over the summer. It attracts EAB to those trees versus healthy trees. They will lay their eggs and we go back in the fall and cut it down,” Barrigar said.

When they figure out which trees become infected, they can use that to figure out the bug’s population density, which could qualify Akwesasne for relief funding.

One approach the Environment Division is considering is using wasps. They lay eggs inside EAB larvae.

“We’re looking to control the larvae versus the adults,” Barrigar said. “Sadly, no matter what we do, it is going to eventually kill every ash tree.”

There is a chemical treatment that could save ash trees, but it needs to be retreated every two or three years at a possible cost of $200 to $300 per treatment per tree.

There are ash seeds being preserved at a seed depository in Fort Collins, Colo., so they could be re-introduced decades from now.

“After EAB moves through, possibly in the next 100 years, something like that, we could plant those trees exactly where they came from,” Barrigar said. “There will always be a small residual population of EAB no matter what.

“A lot of people saying it’s going to be very similar to Dutch elm disease.”

There will be a workshop for those interested in volunteering their ash trees for the project. It will be May 3 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Akwesasne Housing Authority, 378 State Route 37. People looking for more information can call (518) 358-5937.


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