Cities Spend $2B on Tree Pests/Disease; Homeowners Over $1B

The Nature Conservancy commissioned studies on the economic impacts of the many pests and pathogens impacting the health of our region's trees. The Allegheny Front speaks with the Conservancy's Faith Campbell about the study's results.

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JORDAN: Well we just heard about the emerald ash borer invading Pennsylvaniaís forest. Now there are many other pests like Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, Oak Wilt, and the Asian Longhorn Beetle that pose a threat to our forests Faith Campbell is the Senior Policy Representative on the Nature Conservancies Invasive Species Team and sheís speaking with me today from Virginia. Welcome Faith.

CAMPBELL: Well thank you, itís great to be here.

JORDAN: Now, how big of a problem is this for Pennsylvaniaís forests invasive species?

CAMPBELL: Itís a huge problem for Pennsylvaniaís forests for the more less 400 years since the European Settlement began. In the mid-Atlantic States more than 450 species of insects or passages that are native to Europe, Asia or any other places that are outside the United States have been introduced here. In the mid Atlantic States have received more of these than any other part of the country closed to 60, 70 species of highly damaging tests are in Pennsylvania or New York in that area. In addition to the oneís you mentioned there are chestnut blight, gypsy moths, and now the walnuts disease cankers disease.

JORDAN: Is there one next big thing like the emerald ash borer has kind of become?

CAMPBELL: Well, I expect the Thousand Cankers Disease of walnuts will be big in Pennsylvania. There are a lot of walnuts in the state in the forests they have a very high value in their wood and people also enjoy eating collecting the nuts. With detection of that disease in Bucks County over the summer we know itís in Pennsylvania, we donít know how widespread it is in Pennsylvania but I think it will make a big impact in the woods.

JORDAN: Okay, the nature conservancy has been part of studies looking at the economic impact of invasive species in the forest so if like you said people enjoy the nuts from the trees but there are also monetary values. Thereís timber there are other loses can you talk about those a bit.

CAMPBELL: Yes, these studies were conducted by a independent team we did start a rolling pay for it didnít control what the independent sign is found. They found that timber losses range well letís say below $80 million a year which is much smaller than the impacts on cities and towns for example when the Emerald Ash Borer for example comes in a kills the ash trees in that city the mayor of that city canít just ignore the problem because the city will be sued you know one of those entries flips over a car yea the person causes death or injury or damage. The cities have to deal with this pending according to these studies 1.7 well closer to 2 billion dollars per year cites across the country pending on dealing with the removal and sometimes replacement on needs kill of these insects in certain places. Homeowners also see a major loss of course if a tree is on their property they have to pay for its removal and theyíre paying according to these studies again $400 million a year dealing with these problems and they have a huge take a huge hit on their property values that gets up to almost a billion dollars more than $400 billion actually nationwide because of the loss of the both the beauty of the home and the shading during the summer and other values that you get for putting a big tree in your yard.

JORDAN: The shading of the home youíre talking about energy savings?

CAMPBELL: Yea right.

JORDAN: How do these pest get into our forests in the first place?

CAMPBELL: Well actually these pests are from Asia, Europe and they where brought here by people usually not on purpose. Gypsy Moth was really the only one brought to North America on purpose many of them have come in on imported plants thatís true of the chestnut blike. In recent years many of the worst ones have come in as larvae inside the wood, crates palettes and other kinds of packing materials.Those are the principle ways they get in.

JORDAN: I donít know the story of the moth...

CAMPBELL: Wll thereís a scientist in the Boston area who thought it might be suitable for starting a silkworm industry so he brought it over in the 1860ís I believe was maybe in the 1870ís to eastern Massachusetts fairly quickly gave up on the idea making a commercial success out of it meanwhile some are exciting. He did tell the authorities got all excited about it the next 20 or 30 years at that point is to widespread. Weíve been fighting it ever since.

Is it realistic to think that based on the policy resources and you know the science you know that we can prevent the overall changes to forests due to these pests is it a losing battle i guess?

CAMPBELL: Well, I donít like to look at it as a losing battle, its certainly true that starting the chestnut blike and others from 100 years ago are bringing significant changes to the forests already and then will continue to bring more significant changes as you started out the program its almost certain weíre gonna loose ash trees around South America until i just find ways to protect them. But we donít give up on air pollution and water pollution and I donít think we should give up on this one either. There are steps that we could take to reduce a number to get introduced from abroad every year and especially to slow down the spread around inside the country to get introduced to one place to be more successful in obtaining them in that one country.

JORDAN: Talk about any successes so far are there stories of where disease is eradicated or controlled.

CAMPBELL: The most predominant success in these years have been the Asian Longhorn Beetle it has been now found in at least 7 places in North America I believe in Canada and 6 in the United States. Theyíve declared eradication in three of those places and theyíre working on the others. Itís easier in some ways then some of the other tests they put real effort into it because the large number of types of trees that are threatened so they really made an effort and theyíre succeeding.

JORDAN: In 50 years, can you project, will our forests be fundamentally different because of these pests?

CAMPBELL: I think they will be significantly different climate change works its way into all of this too but there will be very few ash there might be very few walnuts if the Asian Longhorn Beetle escapes. The control efforts we might see maples and birches a number of birch trees. Weíre still living with the affect of chestnut flight and gypsy moth and some of the others that were introduced in the 100 or more years ago so this is a long term these coupon getting is a way I like to put it. Theyíre here forever again I think that there are ways that we can respond there are also ways we can restore these trees... breeding chestnuts, developing trees...

JORDAN: Thank you very much for talking with me.

CAMPBELL: Well its been my pleasure.

JORDAN: Iíve been speaking with Faith Campbell she is the Senior Policy Representative on the nature conservancies invasive species team. Our forests series will continue over the coming months. In one feature we will visit the Martin Guitar factory in Western Pennsylvania. Itís an example of a legendary manufacture thatís using sustainable wood from forests. Youíre listening to the Allegheny Front. Iím Jennifer Szweda Jordan.