Forest City under siege by local pest

Emerald ash borer threatens lifespan of local ash trees

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

One of London’s most recognizable tree populations is at risk of being depleted. Sadly, it is not the metal trees decorating the downtown core.

The ash, a prominent tree in the Forest City, is under attack from the emerald ash borer " a highly destructive insect that attacks and kills ash trees. Although the borer has been in London since 2006, the city is scrambling to confront the problem after city officials said the Canadian Food Inspection Agency withdrew from its monitoring role.

According to London ward two city councillor Joni Baechler, the federal government has left the city with a difficult task.

“The federal or provincial government should have a role to play in dealing with this problem. The borer is not just in London, but in other municipalities such as Chatham-Kent as well. It is not only a London problem,” Baechler said.

Paul Hubert, chair of London’s Environment and Transport Committee, was more critical of the CFIA.

“The CFIA did nothing. They were a waste of money. We told the CFIA that their initiatives would not have the desired results, but they were not interested,” Hubert said.

“To say that our input fell on deaf ears would be an understatement. Basically, when we spoke to them we were told to screw off.”

Brian Hamilton, a spokesperson for the CFIA, defended the agency’s role in London.

“This isn’t an insect that you just meet happily over,” Hamilton said. “I think we worked very collaboratively [with the city].”

Hamilton noted a lack of knowledge about the borer was a hindrance to the CFIA’s efforts.

“There really was nothing known of the emerald ash borer in the world prior to it being detected in North America. We really just had to start from scratch.”

Despite the lack of background information, Hamilton believed the CFIA has implemented several positive regulations.

“We took the opportunity to reach out to the industries and get through what our regulations involved and police the regulations,” he said.

“We can slow the bug spread. The insect doesn’t recognize the county of Middlesex. But the biggest spread is by people.”

Hamilton argued the regulations and enforcement techniques, such as charging people for moving regulated articles, were steps in the right direction.

The City of London has identified 10,000 ash trees in London’s downtown area and parks alone. Unfortunately, this may be only the tip of the iceberg.

“There are more ash trees in woodlands, parks and on private properties in the London area that the city haven’t had the opportunity to address,” Ivan Listar, a London urban forester, said.

Baechler warned the cost of the problem and the federal government’s withdrawal from it could be an issue.

“If the city has to replace all the ash trees, it would cost $10 million. This would come at a tremendous cost to the taxpayers.”

Hubert agreed and explained the cost to remove and replant one tree is $1,000.

Baechler indicated the borer has the potential to decimate entire ash tree populations.

“In Michigan, large swathes of land have been cleared to stop the borer from spreading. Ten kilometre land areas in Chatham-Kent have also been cleared,” she said.

In the wake of the CFIA’s departure, the City of London is attempting to devise a plan to approach the issue. Baechler said city staff has been asked to develop a strategy to minimize the problem.

This strategy would work with several initiatives already in place. London currently offers curbside pickup of ash products.

“This is a start,” Listar warned.

“But the problem is expected to get worse.”

Share this article on:

Facebook | DiggDigg |

Copyright © 2008 The Gazette