Tree Killers

The Cooperator NY, September 1st, 2016


Who knew that such a tiny insect could wreak so much havoc throughout the country?

That dubious distinction belongs to the emerald ash borer (EAB), which is native to Asia and bad news here in the U.S., where the insect is present in 27 states, including New York and New Jersey, according to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. Metallic-green in color and measuring just a half-inch long and one-eighth wide, the emerald ash borer is responsible for the death of tens of millions of ash trees in Michigan, where it was first discovered in 2002, and hundreds of millions of trees in the affected parts of the U.S and Canada. The U.S. Forest Service says that the cost for treating, removing and replacing infected ash trees is estimated to be $10.7 billion. Some condo associations in parts of the country with ash trees have addressed the emerald ash borer problem in online announcements.

The emerald ash borer was first confirmed in New York State in 2009 by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and has been known to known to exist in at least 12 counties, including Albany, Ulster, Erie and Dutchess. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture said that infestations of the emerald ash borer, which was first detected in the Garden State two years ago, have been found in six counties—Bergen, Burlington, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth and Somerset—as of June 2016.

Origins and Introduction

Patrick Parker, plant health care director of SavATree, a tree and shrub care company with offices in 10 states and the District of Columbia, says the arrival of the emerald ash borer into the U.S. could be attributed to global commerce. “A lot of the most destructive insects we’ve had actually come in on wood crate packing materials where the insects themselves are already inside the wood when the packing material came into the country,” he says, “We see a lot of infestations start that way. Some of the larger port cities are where you’ll see these infestations start, where those products come in. Other times they could be brought in with plant material that’s imported from other areas.”

A Bug That Eats Baseball Bats

New York Times, August 29th, 2016


The emerald ash borer is a luminescent green insect that probably arrived in the Detroit area more than 15 years ago. These small Asian beetles, possibly coming to this country on wooden packing materials, have been devouring millions of ash trees as they eat their way from Michigan across the Midwest.

In recent years, the pests have also moved into the forests of New York, where experts believe they have infected 130 million ash trees within about six million acres of forest. By any standard, this is a plague, reminiscent of the Dutch elm disease or the voracious gypsy moth.

New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation has worked hard to quarantine the ash borer menace. Until scientists find a way to defeat this insect — for example, with a wasp that eats the borer (researchers are trying to corral two types of predatory wasps) or a safe insecticide — the only real answer is to keep diseased lumber, wood chips or logs from coming out of infected areas and to cut down ash trees around an infected patch.

The battle against the borer has been costly for the state and for communities that must deal with limbs falling from dead trees. And federal money to fight invasive species is routinely rerouted to fight forest fires in the West. Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, wants Congress to provide a separate disaster fund for these forest fires so that there is sufficient money for the Forest Service to fight invasive species. Mr. Schumer’s funding plan deserves support.

The disappearance of white ash trees would be devastating for the ecosystem of Northeastern forests. It would also spell trouble for baseball: White ash was the classic wood for bats for years. Some major leaguers have opted for maple or other woods for their favorite bats, but about 25 percent of bats are still made of white ash.

Ron Vander Groef, manager of the Rawlings bat factory near Albany, told NPR that if the ash borer is not controlled, “We will not be able to make any more pro bats or retail bats or anything out of white ash because it will be gone.” That would be a tragedy, and not just for lovers of the white ash baseball bat.

EPA Honors U.S. Virgin Islands Environmental Champions

Contact: Jennifer May-Reddy (212-637-3658), may.jennifer

(New York, N.Y. – May 13, 2016) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today honored two organizations from the U.S. Virgin Islands with Environmental Champion Awards for their achievements in protecting public health and the environment. EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck was joined by Murray Fisher, founder of the New York Harbor School, to present the awards to this year’s recipients at a ceremony at the EPA’s offices in Manhattan. The awards are presented annually.

“It is a privilege for EPA to be able to recognize the dedication and accomplishments of these environmental trailblazers,” said Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “These individuals and organizations from the U.S. Virgin Islands are an inspiration, encouraging us to do our best to protect the environment every day.”

The Environmental Champion Award winners from the U.S. Virgin Islands are:

Clean Sweep Frederiksted

Clean Sweep Frederiksted is a grassroots initiative with the mission to support the economic development and revitalization of the Frederiksted Historic District through targeted litter cleanups. The organization has developed a program called Adopt‐a‐Spot, where individuals, schools,

businesses, civic groups, or churches commit to keeping a specific area clear of litter. They also transformed Cruzan rum barrels into trash receptacles that are painted by local volunteers. To date, volunteers have donated over 4,000 hours of service valued at over $95,000.

Gifft Hill School

The Gifft Hill School teaches environmental stewardship to students from preschool to 12th grade through gardening and nutrition education. The school instills in its students an understanding of their relationship with the environment. The school also established an Energy Initiative that will save the school $1 million over 20 years through energy efficiency improvements, a solar photovoltaic system, and a Community Campus Arboretum of 60 native and regionally significant trees.

For more details, visit:

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EPA Funding Available to Prevent Plastic Trash in New Jersey and New York Waters

Proposals are Due May 10, 2016

Contact: Elias Rodriguez, (212) 637-3664, rodriguez.elias

(New York, N.Y. – March 23, 2016) The EPA has provided $365,000 to the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC) to fund local projects that will prevent plastic trash polluting water bodies in New Jersey and New York. Projects may include a variety of plastic trash prevention solutions, including those that: implement source reduction and demonstrate prevention of trash from entering water bodies. Projects that are replicable and focus on upstream plastic trash prevention, and projects that benefit low-income communities near waterbodies will be prioritized. The deadline for applying through NEIWPCC is May 10, 2016.

"Our oceans and lakes and rivers are being choked with plastic debris,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “Estimates are that by 2025 there will be 1 ton of plastic for every 3 tons of fish in the world’s oceans. This funding will help jumpstart real solutions that will reduce plastic waste at the source.”

Aquatic plastic pollution is getting worse every year. It is estimated that over 8 million metric tons of plastic pollution enter the world’s oceans annually. By 2025, this amount is expected to more than double. A recent study by NY/NJ Baykeeper showed that at least 165 million plastic particles are floating in the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary at any given time.

The EPA funding is being awarded through a competitive grant process run by New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission will help stimulate creative, common sense solutions to the burgeoning problem of plastics in lakes, streams, harbors and oceans. Academic and educational institutions, local governments, and non-profit organizations are all eligible to apply for the funding. Funding requests should be a minimum of $45,000. To view the request for proposals and to apply, visit dpeckham.

This $365,000 in funding is being provided through the EPA’s New York/New Jersey Aquatic Trash Prevention Grant Program, which is designed to fund projects that help meet the goals of the EPA’s Trash Free Waters program. This grant program is focused on projects that will support the Trash Free Waters initiative’s goal of reducing the volume of plastic trash entering fresh and marine water environments, approaching zero-loading of trash into U.S. waters within 10 years.

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The Sweet Smell of Lamprey

There’s something frightening in the water.

You might be used to targeting invisible pollutants—dissolved metals, say—or more readily apparent things like sediments and nutrient-caused algae blooms. But it’s a safe bet that nothing else you’ve dealt with looks quite like this. The Great Lakes are having a lamprey problem.

As this New York Times article vividly describes, “Lampreys look like the stuff of horror films: a slithering, tubular body topped with a suction-cup mouth ringed with row upon row of hooked yellow teeth. With this mouth, a sea lamprey anchors to its fish prey and uses its rasping tongue to drill into the victim’s flesh. It remains there for up to a month, feeding on blood and body fluids. Even if a fish survives the attack, the gaping wound left behind often results in death.”

Many non-native species have invaded the Great Lakes—the Asian carp, the zebra mussel, the small herring known as the alewife. Lampreys are especially costly, as they can decimate fisheries. The Great Lakes Fishery Commission, which was founded in the 1950s largely to deal with the lampreys, spends $20 million a year to control them.

The lampreys arrived in Lake Ontario through the Erie Canal in the mid-1800s and in less than 100 years had spread throughout the Great Lakes. They have no natural predators in this environment, but plenty of food. As the Times article notes, at one point they were killing more than 100 million pounds of fish each year and drastically reducing harvests of lake trout, whitefish, and other species.

Researchers with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission tested thousands of chemicals to find something deadly to lampreys but more or less benign to other fish. They found a larvicide that works, and that—along with other measures like physical barriers—has greatly reduced the parasites’ numbers. But broadcasting this “lampricide” around the ecosystem is expensive and sometimes results in collateral damage to other species.

For some time now, they’ve been experimenting with synthesized pheromones to lure the lampreys to a concentrated area where they can be trapped or killed en masse. Lampreys choose where to spawn based on the scent of already-existing larvae that are buried in the mud. As Michael Wagner, a fish ecologist with Michigan State University, explains in the article, “It’s like choosing where to raise your kids based on a neighborhood’s crime rate and quality of schools. The odor larvae release says, ‘We’re thriving here.’” Scientists are using the scent of larvae to attract the lampreys in one direction, and they’re also using a scent based on dead or decaying lampreys in other areas to drive the lampreys away, essentially creating traffic patterns that allow them to achieve the same results with less application of poison.

Similar scent-based techniques have been used on insects but never before on vertebrates. Although it’s still in the research stage, a member of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission says, “This is the beginning of what could potentially be a new era in invasive species control.” If it’s successful, the pheromone technique could also be used to help lampreys in their native habitats where populations are declining because of habitat degradation.

EPA Provides $691,000 to Protect Wetlands throughout New York State

Contact: John Martin, (212) 637-3662, martin.johnj

(New York, N.Y. – December 9, 2015) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $690,940 to the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, and the Research Foundation of SUNY, to better protect wetlands throughout New York.

“Wetlands play a critical role in alleviating harmful effects of climate change, protecting against flooding and storm surges," said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. "These grants will help strengthen shorelines and the health of wetlands, protecting water quality and fish and wildlife habitats."

The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe will use a $212,156 grant to develop water quality criteria for wetlands throughout its jurisdiction. Water quality standards define the goals of water bodies by designating how specific water bodies are used (for fishing, swimming, boating, etc.), setting environmental criteria to protect those uses, and establishing provisions to protect water quality from pollutants. To meet EPA approval, state and tribal water quality standards must include definition of designated uses, water quality criteria, anti-degradation requirements and general policies in their water quality standards.

With a $155,337 grant, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation will analyze wetlands and stream networks and categorize them by their susceptibility to the impacts of storm water. NYC Parks will also identify factors that lead to wetland vulnerability and prepare guidelines for storm water management that will best protect downstream wetlands. NYC Parks is responsible for managing almost half of New York City’s freshwater wetlands. The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation will contribute $52,000 towards the total cost of this project.

The Research Foundation of SUNY at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry will use a $323,447 EPA grant to develop criteria to determine if vernal pools are of “unusual local importance.” Vernal pools are small, temporary bodies of water that are typically found in forests. The Research Foundation of SUNY will work in partnership with the New York Natural Heritage Program on this project and will contribute $133,032 towards the total cost of this project.

Since 1990, EPA’s Wetland Program Development Grants have provided financial assistance to help build or refine state and local government wetland programs. These funds provide opportunities for states to conduct research and help build the science behind comprehensive wetlands programs at the state level.

For more information on the EPA’s Wetland Program Development Grants, visit:

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EPA Funds Project to Support Sustainability in New York City Restaurants

EPA Funds Project to Support Sustainability in New York City Restaurants Information Also to Be Shared with Restaurants in Puerto Rico

Contact: John Martin, (212) 637-3662, martin.johnj

(New York, N.Y. – November 24, 2015) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $69,500 to the New York State Restaurant Association Educational Foundation to help New York City restaurants support sustainable practices and prepare for the impacts of climate change, such as storm surges.

“Pollution prevention is some of the most important work being done to protect the environment,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “This project will help restaurant owners reduce food waste and reduce the use of pesticides and chemicals, while also conserving energy and water. By taking steps to eliminate waste at the source, New York City restaurants can become models for sustainable practices.”

The grant will build upon previous EPA-funded grants to educate restaurant owners about preventing pollution. Under the grant, the New York State Restaurant Association Educational Foundation will work with New York City restaurants to reduce their water and energy consumption; cut back on their use of hazardous materials for cleaning or pest control; and reduce the risk of releasing hazardous chemicals during a storm or catastrophic event. The New York State Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s education and outreach programs provide trainings, as well as informational brochures and webinars. Additionally, a green restaurant handbook will be made available to restaurateurs.

The focus of this project will be restaurants in communities that are highly susceptible to flooding, including Red Hook, Brooklyn, and The Rockaways. In addition to training New York City restaurants, The New York State Restaurant Association Educational Foundation will share information learned with restaurants in Puerto Rico through its partnership with the Puerto Rican Restaurant Association.

This grant to the New York State Restaurant Association Educational Foundation is part of the approximately $5 million in grants the EPA awards each year to prevent pollution across the nation.

For more information on the EPA’s pollution prevention program, visit

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