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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Casey to Forest Service: Fight Invasice Species
Threatening Allegheny National Forest

Washington, DC - Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced that he has sent a letter to the Chief of U.S. Forest Service, Tom Tidwell, urging the agency to develop a plan to combat a new threat of invasive species in the Allegheny National Forest (ANF).

Right now the ANF is beset by Hemlock Woolly Adelgid and the Emerald Ash Borer, threatening Pennsylvania’s timber industry in Northwestern Pennsylvania, which last year alone saw $7 million in timber sales. In his letter, Casey asked the U.S. Forest Service to model any efforts to combat the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid and the Emerald Ash Borer after other efforts to confront the growth of the Gypsy Moth.

“The Allegheny National Forest is one our state’s treasures and a key part of the economy in Northwestern Pennsylvania,” Senator Casey said. “The health of the Allegheny National Forest is directly related to the health of Northwestern Pennsylvania’s timber industry and the jobs it supports. I’m urging the Forest Service to take immediate steps and model this effort after programs that have slowed the spread of other invasive.”

The full text of Casey’s letter can be seen below: Mr. Thomas Tidwell
Chief, U.S. Forest Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave SW
Washington DC 20250-0003

Dear Chief Tidwell:

The Allegheny National Forest (ANF) is Pennsylvania’s only national forest and is a high-value area in the National Forest system. Unfortunately, both the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid and the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) have become an imminent threat in the ANF. The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid is rapidly destroying hemlock trees while the Emerald Ash Borer is taking down ash trees. Hemlock trees are a crucial part of the ecosystem in the Allegheny National Forest as they provide habitat for other species. The Eastern hemlock is also the official tree of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and is an important part of the Commonwealth’s history. The Emerald Ash Borer has killed more than 40 million ash trees in states where it has been found. The economic damage from EAB could reach the billions of dollars nationwide if this pest is not dealt with effectively.

The ANF, spanning approximately 517,000 acres, is spread across four Pennsylvanian counties: Forest, Elk, McKean, and Warren. The forest is a key source of valuable timber. It is also an importance source of both direct and indirect employment. The value of timber sold by the ANF totaled $7.2 million during Fiscal Year 2012, and was as high as $25.6 million within the last ten years. I am committed to ensuring that the ANF continues to fuel the economy of Northwestern Pennsylvania.

Within the ANF, Hemlock Woolly Adelgid defoliation primarily threatens hemlock population, since hemlock needles are the preferred food source of the insect. Due to recent increase in the amount of hemlock trees being destroyed by the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, I am concerned about the potential for growth loss and a reduction in the hemlock trees’ overall health and survival. The EAB has also appeared within the ANF causing great disruption to valuable ash trees. Neither insect has a natural predator in North America.

I ask that the U.S. Forest Service take all appropriate actions to prevent the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid and the Emerald Ash Borer from harming the health of the Allegheny National Forest. The Forest Service must continue to study ecological effects and economic impacts of invasive species in Pennsylvania in order to develop treatments and manage species. I urge you to quickly develop models for the Emerald Ash Borer and Hemlock Woolly Adelgid like the one developed for the Gypsy Moth Slow-the-Spread Program. I also ask that Forest Service staff work with others to ensure that private land owners in Pennsylvania have the best information on how to address the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid and the Emerald Ash Borer on their properties.

The Allegheny National Forest is an invaluable natural resource that supports both the economy and culture of Pennsylvania. Thank you in advance for your consideration of my requests. I appreciate your leadership and look forward to continuing to work with you on this and other matters.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator

The news leader of the Twin Tiers ... since 1947

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