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Tree Protection Bolstered in 2007 Budget

For more information contact:

Joanne Haas, Office of the County Executive (608) 267-8823 or cell (608) 669-5606

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 11/17/2006

Issued By: County Executive
View only releases from County Executive
The Pac-Man of tree pests – the gypsy moth -- will have a tougher time chomping through Dane County forests and shady neighborhoods thanks to tree protection programs in the 2007 County budget that also includes emerald ash borer surveillance, stopping firewood imports at the county-line and a first-ever timber harvest.

“This is the accidental tourist turned tree terrorist,” Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk said of the highly destructive European/Asian moth first found near Boston more than 135 years ago in what experts call an unintentional U.S. landing.

“Since then, this little guy has munched his way through thousands and thousands of acres of forests leaving nothing behind,” Falk said of the pest known to defoliate millions of acres in the country each year. “The moth made it to Wisconsin in 1999, and is responsible for the defoliation of about 65,000 acres in three counties north of Dane. We have to act now to protect our trees.”

Working with the Dane County Board of Supervisors – in particular Supervisors Tom Stoebig and Paul Rusk, both of Madison – Falk included in the budget $6,100 to coordinate the state’s Gypsy Moth Suppression Plan at the county level. The dollars support the county staff time to process and to organize the individual Dane County municipality applications for state spraying into one single county application for state consideration.

The program includes targeted moth suppression spraying next spring to stop the caterpillars. “The thought of our county without its beautiful trees is the reason we have to act now and earmark these dollars,” Falk said. “The spraying will be done with a naturally-derived product known as BTK – made from a fermenting process similar to how beer is brewed.”

Falk said experts assure BTK is not harmful to people or pets, and breaks down in the sunlight within a few days.

The budget also includes efforts to stop the emerald ash borer – another highly destructive pest officials theorize is spread when wood is transported from infected areas. And, just like the gypsy moth, the ash borer also has the capability of harming or destroying many trees.

Once an infestation is found, the most practical way to prevent the spread is to remove all the ash trees in close proximity to the infected area, Falk said.

The county also will work with the state Department of Natural Resources to develop a proposed ordinance to stop the transport of firewood from outside Dane County into county parks and campgrounds. “Putting the breaks on the transport of this wood is another step we can take to stop the march of this invasive species,” Falk said.

Also included in the budget is the first-ever timber improvement harvest in a county-owned area -- the 80-acre Scheidegger County Forest near Verona. Scheidegger was selected because this is the first county forest to have a completed forest management plan.

Falk said the timber-thinning harvest will be done to ease out the trees considered invasive and able to overpower higher quality trees. Trees expected to be harvested from the Scheidegger Forest include the Black Locust, Box Elder, Aspen, Black Cherry, Oak and other hardwoods.

“The harvest is an effective tool to remove invasive trees to help keep the forest strong and healthy,” Falk said, adding Scheidegger harvest may be only the first. “As part of the budget, the county will identify additional areas where timber thinning harvests could help battle invasive tree species.”

Dollars raised from possible future harvests, in addition to the one at Scheidegger which may net nearly $14,000, will be earmarked to offset operation costs and the maintenance of acquired lands, Falk added.

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