WILLSBORO - Anyone traveling along the many highways and byways through the Adirondacks may have noticed those purple contraptions that look like box kites hanging in trees.
Those unique contraptions are part of a regional effort to detect the presence of a nasty pest called the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive species that threatens to kill virtually all the ash trees in New York and other forests in the Northeast.
Protect the Adirondacks (PROTECT) has joined the ranks of a team of experts and citizen scientists coordinated by the USDA who deploy these insect traps and monitor local forests for the ash borer and other invasive species.
According to Mike DiNunzio, PROTECT's staff ecologist, invasive pests and pathogens like the Emerald Ash Borer pose one of the most serious threats our forests have faced in thousands of years.
"We need to deal quickly and effectively with these problems," he said, "while respecting the letter and spirit of the laws that protect the 'forever wild' forest preserve, and the importance of healthy forests to our economy."
PROTECT is a nonprofit organization arising from a 2009 consolidation of the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks (RCPA) and The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks (AFPA).
In keeping with its commitment to the stewardship of the Park's public and private lands, PROTECT has been actively engaged in a program coordinated by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, in collaboration with NYS-DEC and other partners to gain early detection of invasive forest pests like the Emerald Ash Borer and Asian Longhorned Beetle in the Adirondack Park.
"Invasive species are a profound threat to the restoration and conservation of Adirondack forests," said Jeremy Caggiano, PROTECT's Director of Adirondack Stewardship.
Caggiano works with private landowners in the Park who wish to enroll their lands in the Forest Stewardship Council's green-certified forestry program, which not only assures routine assessment of woodland conditions but also provides professional guidance to preserve the health and vitality of the working forest landscape.
PROTECT's involvement in the USDA's Emerald Ash Borer survey program is spearheaded by Josh Wilson, the organization's Conservation Associate.
"We've been actively involved in monitoring for EAB in Northern Essex Country this summer and have set and monitored traps in the towns of Jay, Upper Jay, Keene, Wilmington, Lewis, and Willsboro," he said. "We intend to expand our efforts to include ground-level surveys for Asian Longhorned Beetle in high-risk forested areas around the Adirondacks this late summer and early fall. These volunteer surveys and the information generated by them will help inform future detection efforts and will be critical for monitoring pest movement inside the Park."
Wilson emphasized the need for public involvement and cooperation with prevention efforts:
"Citizens are truly the first line of defense against invasive forest pests," he said. "We need to recruit more landowners and citizen stewards to help monitor our public and private forests for the presence of destructive pests like the Emerald Ash Borer and Asian Longhorned Beetle. "Early detection is crucial in the effort to prevent widespread establishment of these insects in our treasured Forest Preserve, private timberlands, and communities."