School board to ANF: Save trees from EAB infestations

In July, the board sent a letter to the Allegheny National Forest.

The letter urged “a more rapid response to the emerald ash borer infestation encouraging that it advances the pace and scope of the harvesting to avoid the inevitable waste of the white ash trees which are certainly terminal.”

The US Forest Service responded to that letter in an Aug. 1 letter from Acting Allegheny National Forest Supervisor Roman Torres.

“The ANF has taken aggressive measures to increase the volume of ash available for sale and is actively managing the very real threat posed by the EAB,” Torres said.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, mortality of previously healthy infested ash stands is expected to be close to 100 percent.

Board member Arthur Stewart, who has led tours of district properties, pointing out the ash thereon, said ANF inventories indicate the total value of ash on the ANF to be about $100 million. Through the Secure Rural Schools act, local schools and governments receive a portion of timber harvests from national forest lands.

Locally, that could mean $25 million to those entities if 100 percent of the trees are harvested, Stewart said.

According to the ANF, 100 percent is not a reasonable expectation.

“It must be realized that multiple factors affect the timing, location, and quantity of our sale offerings,” Torres said. “Much of the ANF ash resource referenced by the Warren County School District occurs in richer and wetter sites that are not always physically suited for ground-based timber harvest equipment and ash occurs in such low numbers that timber salvage activities are not operationally feasible.”

The harvesting operations have been going on for years. “In 2009, despite EAB not yet having been found on the ANF, the ANF began reducing the abundance of ash trees through harvest,” Torres said. “Shortly after EAB’s detection on the forest in 2013, the ANF first began to salvage all ash within ongoing timber sale units and along the timber haul routes associated with those sales.”

Since 2011, the ANF has sold and cut about 16.5 million board feet of ash valued at almost $5.5 million, he said. Another 4 million board feet will be offered in 2018.

A 2017 decision will result in “over 3,200 acres of timber harvesting (stand regeneration) in areas dominated by ash… over the life of this multi-year project,” he said.

Efforts to delay and mitigate the effects of EAB were first taken in 2006. The specific undertakings include: education and outreach,

The ANF collected seeds from healthy trees in 2011 and 2013. Those seeds were sent to the National Seed Storage Facility.

Stewart said the ANF harvest numbers reflect a “very, very disappointingly small amount… in respect to it being 10 years.”

Board member Joe Colosimo suggested that the board invite the ANF to send someone to speak about the issue. “I’d like to take them up on their offer… come present to us on their plans for these ash trees,” he said.

Stewart said he would like to hear about the differences between ash harvesting on the ANF’s two districts — the Marienville and the Bradford ranger districts.