$3 million in federal money to combat ash borer problem

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pennsylvania will get $3 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to use on a strategy to contain the emerald ash borer, an invasive insect that threatens to destroy the state's 3 million ash trees.

The funding was announced by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who had asked Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns for emergency assistance in battling the pest, which has already destroyed more than 20 million trees in five states.

The ash borer, a tiny, metallic green beetle from Asia, was found on a tree in Cranberry late last month by federal Department of Agriculture surveyors. State officials ordered a quarantine in four counties -- Allegheny, Butler, Beaver and Lawrence -- and state and federal forestry officials have asked campers not to transport ash tree products or hardwood firewood from anywhere near the affected area.

Representatives of state and federal agriculture and forestry departments initiated a painstaking survey of a five-mile circle in Cranberry to determine the extent of the beetle infestation. Coanne O'Hearn of the U.S. Department of Agriculture said that survey was completed Friday.

"Now we have to get the group together to make some decisions," she said.

Those decisions could include the clear-cutting of thousands of ash trees in an attempt to curb the statewide spread of the pest.