Workshop focuses on protecting Maine’s habitat

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PARIS — Stay native.

That’s the message two conservation and forestry groups want to send out when they hold a public workshop next week to talk about invasive pests and plants that are threatening Maine’s forests, vegetation and water bodies.

The Thursday, March 19, workshop sponsored by the Oxford County Soil and Water Conservation District and Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine will focus on how to identify “invasives,” and what can be done to prevent the spread of the damaging and deadly plants and pests. It begins at 7 p.m. in the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School on Main Street in South Paris.

Topping the list for discussion are what officials are calling the “big three” — emerald ash borer, Asian longhorn beetle and hemlock woolly adelgid — invasive pests that attack and have wiped out millions of trees, said Jean Federico, administrative assistant at the Oxford County Soil and Water Conservation District in Paris.

Emerald Ash Borer
Emerald Ash Borer “All ash trees will go in a very short period of time. There will be no more ash. There has been no stopping it,” said Federico of the Emerald Ash Borer, which is closing in on Oxford County.

“All three are on a Maine watch list and one — the emerald ash borer — has been found in Canterbury, N.H. Federico said it attacks all species of ash and because none of the trees are tolerant, they will all die. More than 40 million ash trees have died nationwide since first discovered in 2002.

In July, specialists from the State Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, members of the Oxford County Soil and Water Conservation District and recent trainees of the Forest Pest Outreach and Survey Project met on Paris Hill to survey more than 200 ash trees for signs of the damaging emerald ash borer. So far the damaging pest has not been found in that area.

Officials say during the 1960s and 1970s Maine lost many of its elms due to Dutch Elm Disease. Many communities had large natural populations of ash trees and many replanted their street trees with ash that are now under threat from the emerald ash borer.

Federico said the threat is very real and when it comes, it could destroy forests and subsequently cause significant damage to Maine businesses — such as furniture makers — that rely on the forests.

One of the Asian Longhorn Borer’s favorite targets are sugar maple trees — ground zero for the maple syrup industry, Federico said.

Federico said the workshop will also focus on “terrestrial” invasive plants, including bittersweet, honeysuckle, Japanese knotweed (frequently called bamboo locally), Japanese barberry and purple loosestrife.

All of the invasive plants are now growing in Oxford County and are very difficult to control or eradicate, Federico said.

Federico said the final part of the workshop will be devoted to aquatic invasive plants: Variable–leaf milfoil, Eurasian milfoil, hydrilla, curly-leaf pondweed and European naiad, which are already in some Maine lakes and can spread easily if not detected early.

The emphasis at the workshop will be on identification and prevention of the invasives’ spread, Federico said.

“If you’re planting trees. Don’t plant trees that will get eaten up,” Federico said. “It starts with planting plants that are native (to Maine).”

To help residents plant native, Federico said she will have a native plant sale and tree sign up sheet available at the workshop.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net