Niagara Gazette

March 31, 2013

GLYNN: Bad beetle invades Niagara County

By DON GLYNN
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Niagara County is under attack but it has nothing to do with terrorism.

Instead it’s a little flying beetle that has already wreaked havoc in many other states and in Canada. It’s the emerald ash borer and unless the assault is halted, it could wipe out much of the hardwood that is vital to the manufacture of kitchen cabinets, flooring, tool handles, and even baseball bats. That impact on business and consumers is mind bogging.

According to the Cornell Cooperative Extension, Niagara is one of 13 counties across the Empire State affected by the emerald ash borer infestation. A spokesman said there are now 40 counties in New York included in the expanded quarantine that takes effect May 1.

If this half-inch metallic green beetle succeeds in its mission it could easily kill sturdy, decades-old trees in three to five years.

John Farfaglia, horticulturist with the extension service, said the insect often shows up in firewood, perhaps transported from a wooded area in the Southern Tier. Unless heat treated, it is unlawful to transport it beyond 50 miles where it’s found. (In fact, some campgrounds insist their own firewood is used.) Farfaglia noted that New York is one of the most densely populated of ash trees.

Scientists and tree care specialists have learned much about the insect and methods to protect ash trees since 2002, when it was discovered near Detroit. Some research indicates the beetle might have arrived on a cargo ship from Asia which means it was transported along the St. Lawrence Seaway and through the Welland Canal to Michigan.

Several universities are conducting research on the beetle’s life cycle and to find ways to contain the infestation. It is estimated that the EAB, as it is known, has killed tens of millions of ash trees in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan as well as in Ontario and Quebec.

If you think that you may have an emerald ash borer in your ash trees, you can call 1-866-640-0652 for assistance.  

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OFF & RUNNING: Thoroughbred racing fans shouldn’t get too excited over that one-year deal that will allow the Fort Erie Race Track to open in late May. In fact, informed sources contend that the 11th-hour reprieve to secure racing dates for this season is simply a political ploy orchestrated by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynee whose Liberal Party is anticipating a difficult race for re-election. Details of the agreement between the government and the Fort Erie Race Track have not been made public as yet.

The track, perhaps the largest employer in the community, is one of two thoroughbred race tracks in the province. The other is Woodbine, north of Toronto. The Fort Erie oval has been home to the Prince of Wales Stakes, the second jewel in Canada’s Triple  Crown of horse racing.

As for the long-term plans for the track, it’s anyone’s guess — once the election is over.

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TOO LATE: The current issue of Preservation, the magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, features a splendid photo of the stately Bethlehem Steel Administration Building in Lackawanna (circ. 1920). It notes the Beaux Arts structure designed by Lansing Holden had been scheduled for demolition in January but preservationists had brought a lawsuit in state Supreme Court to block the action. It wasn’t in time, however, to save the building that opened in 1901. At its peak, Bethlehem Steel employed more than 25,000 workers at its area facilities, a short drive from downtown Buffalo.

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FAST LANES: The storied Golden Gate Bridge in California is finally catching up to the times, even matching the technology at the international bridges over the Niagara River. Drivers can now move freely through the toll plaza without stopping. “Tolling once meant stop, but today hi-tech tolling means go, go, go,” said Patrick Jones, executive director of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association. For the record, the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission has had an electronic toll system in place for several years.

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THE LIGHTER SIDE: Overheard at a book signing: “From the moment I picked up that first book you wrote until the second I put it down, I couldn’t stop laughing. In fact, one of these days I intend to read it” — a customer with a knack for putting people down.

Happy Easter!

Contact reporter Don Glynn at 282-2311, ext. 2246.