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Contact: Vickie Carson, 270-758-2192
(MAMMOTH CAVE, Kentucky - July 12, 2012) Emerald ash borer. Hemlock wooly adelgid. Walnut twig beetle. These are forest pests, among others, that threaten the health and survival of native Kentucky forests. Mammoth Cave National Park staff and other land managers across the Commonwealth and the United States are watching for their arrival and considering how to deal with their effects.
"Forest pests are becoming an ever greater concern," said Acting Superintendent Bruce Powell. "Insects and fungi are spreading arboreal diseases with devastating results. An example from history is the chestnut blight the occurred during the 1930s."
The chestnut was common in most of the eastern United States and southern Canada until it fell victim to the chestnut blight, a fungus first seen in New York in 1904. By the 1930s, most of the population was gone. A few chestnut trees survive today via sprouts from the 80 year-old stumps and from nuts produced by young trees.
"Presently we are monitoring for several different insects that feed on trees and spread disease," said Brice Leech, one of Mammoth Cave's resource management specialists. "One is the emerald ash borer, which has been found in northern Kentucky, but not here at Mammoth Cave - yet. A ban on transporting firewood has slowed its advance. Preventing new pest introductions is our best means to protect the native forests."
Mammoth Cave staff have installed emerald ash borer (EAB) monitoring traps, large purple boxes that hang in trees. EAB larvae eat into the bark of ash trees (all species) eventually girdling the tree. "The EAB cuts off the nutrients flowing through a tree's trunk, killing the tree," said Leech.
Hemlock wooly adelgid (HWA) can be found in eastern Kentucky. It defoliates trees by eating the base of the needles. Mammoth Cave National Park holds an "island" population of hemlocks in the northern section of the park. HWA has not been found in the park to date.
The walnut twig beetle carries thousand canker disease which kills walnut trees. It has not been detected in Mammoth Cave National Park as yet.
"These are just a few of the forest pests that are on the march across the country," added Leech. "So far, we are looking for these pests by visual observation or through use of traps. These are not controls methods."
Seven NPS areas that share similar ecosystems are collaborating on an environmental assessment regarding how to:
· identify long-term management tools to reduce the impacts of (or threats from) invasive pests to natural and cultural resources; and
· provide opportunities for restoring native plant communities and cultural landscapes.
The NPS areas, collectively identified as the Cumberland Park, include: Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park (KY), Andrew Johnson National Historic Site (TN), Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area (NRRA) (TN/KY), Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park (GA), Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (KY/TN/VA), Mammoth Cave National Park (KY), and Obed Wild and Scenic River (TN).
"This point in the planning process is called scoping, to determine the scope of the plan and environmental assessment," noted Powell. "We are asking the public what they think should be considered in the planning process as we proceed. For example, someone might suggest we include a specific kind of insect or fungi, a location, or a method of monitoring or control."
Comments for all the Cumberland Parks will be consolidated through Big South Fork NRRA. Written comments should be postmarked no later than August 1, 2012. Comments may be submitted online at the NPS Planning, Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) website (http://parkplanning.nps.gov/Scoping_FPMEA), by mail, email, or fax. Comments are typically treated as public record and made available for public review. Individuals may request that the NPS withhold their name and address from disclosure. Such requests will be honored to the extent allowable by law. Comments may be submitted by the following means:
Online PEPC system: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/Scoping_FPMEA
Attn: Forest Pest Management Plan Environmental Assessment
Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area
4564 Leatherwood Road
Oneida, Tennessee 37841