Casey urges Forest Service to take steps to limit gypsy moth destruction on ANF

By:  Josh Cotton and Colin Kyler

Concerns about the spread and destruction that can be wrought by gypsy moths in the Allegheny National Forest have prompted a call to action by a federal legislator.

In a letter from Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) to Tom Tidwell, chief of the U.S. Forest Service, Casey outlines the case for efforts to be made to limit the spread of gypsy moths.

"First introduced during the 1860s during a failed attempt to start a silkworm business, the gypsy moth has become one of America's most devastating invasive forest pests," the letter states. "I am particularly concerned by the gypsy moth's presence in the Allegheny National Forest.

"The forest is a key source of valuable timber. It is also an important source of both direct and indirect employment. The value of timber sold in the ANF totaled $7.2 million... and was as high as $25.6 million within the last 10 years."

Casey said, "I am concerned about the potential for growth loss and a reduction in the oak trees' overall health and survival. Damage to Pennsylvania's important hardwood timber would be injurious for the industry and workers in the region; it would also negatively impact the roads and schools in these four Pennsylvania counties."

The ANF encompasses parts of Forest, Elk, McKean and Warren counties.

The ANF released a statement in response to the letter, "We are extremely grateful for the support of Senator Casey and our other elected officials and we will continue to work with our partners to educate the public on any potential threats to the ANF and surrounding private lands."

Results of egg mass counts, which will provide much more information about the extent of gypsy moth invasiveness, will be available in May.

According to the release, revenues from Pennsylvania's forest products industry exceed $5.5 billion annually. Over 10 percent of the state's manufacturing workforce is involved in the forest products industry. Every dollar paid to a timber owner for trees ultimately generates, through manufacturing, more than $17 worth of economic growth.

The letter was written in response to reports which indicate an expanded presence of gypsy moths in the ANF.

"In 2013, we will be monitoring actual defoliation and gypsy moth population trends and if necessary will consider treatment options to reduce population levels and defoliation in high value areas such as recreation facilities, campgrounds (and) scenic by-ways," according to information from the ANF.