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Jefferson County gets ready for the emerald ash borer

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They’re coming.

The emerald ash borer, an exotic beetle that feeds on the living tissue of ash trees, effectively choking them off from nutrients and leaving them to die slowly over a period of two to four years, is on its way to Jefferson County, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Seven percent — or 900 million — of the state’s trees are ash.

Ash trees are popular street trees and often were used to replace elms killed by Dutch elm disease.

There are roughly 406 city-owned ash trees in Watertown, not counting those on private property, according to Jennifer L. Voss, community development coordinator for the Jefferson County Planning Department.

The county’s first line of defense in the fight against this invasive forest pest is its highway and public works superintendents, local tree committees, foresters and others who work outdoors, according to a press release from the county Planning Department.

These individuals are invited to attend two training sessions beginning at 8 a.m. May 8 in the large conference room of the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County, 203 N. Hamilton St.

The emerald ash borer came to the U.S. in wood shipping materials such as pallets and crates, according to DEC forest pest outreach coordinator Erin K. Brady.

Ms. Brady said they came from Asia and were discovered in 2002 in Detroit; from there, they “spread in all directions.”

Early detection is key to slowing the spread of the beetle, Ms. Brady said.

The “first detector” portion of the May 8 training will cover the bug’s biology and identification as well as firewood management and quarantine procedures.

A second training session, from 9:15 to 10 a.m., will focus on helping officials create preparedness plans to deal with impacts from the beetle.

The city of Watertown already has written a preparedness plan. It is in the draft stage and has not yet been approved by the City Council, Mrs. Voss said.

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