By Kristin Bednarski
Residents in Bethel and Tate Township may begin noticing blue ribbons wrapped around trees throughout the village and township.
The ribbons are being placed on healthy host trees by members of the Asian Longhorned Beetle Citizens’ Cooperative and volunteers to raise awareness about what the infestation could mean for the area.
“The inspiration for this project was to draw a little more awareness,” Denae Bowen, a member of the cooperative who organized the project, said.
Bowen said that if the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service choses two of four options for continued eradication efforts, which were presented in their most recent environmental assessment, the township and the county would lose a significant number of trees.
In the USDA-APHIS’ environmental assessment, which was released May 9, two of the additional eradication options call for the removal of some or all host trees within a certain radius of infested trees.
The two other options highlighted in the environmental assessment include no action taken by the USDA-APHIS or chemical treatment of the healthy host trees for prevention.
ALB cooperative members have already expressed their support for chemical treatment for healthy host trees as opposed to removal.
“We want them to treat all of the trees we are marking today with a blue ribbon,” Bowen said.
Bill Skvarla, founder of the cooperative, said healthy host trees within a half-mile radius of an infested tree would be the trees that would come down if host trees are removed.
“One infested tree means host trees in the entire village would be scheduled to come down,” Skvarla said about the radius.
Bowen said they would be marking trees along State Route 125 and State Route 133 Oct. 23 and demonstrated the technique for marking the trees with both a blue ribbon and an X.
“We have a handout with host trees to identify,” Bowen said.
She also told volunteers to make sure they get permission from property owners before marking trees on any side streets.
“This is important not just for Bethel but the state as well,” State Representative Joseph Uecker said as he helped mark trees Oct. 23.
Uecker said the way the Asian longhorned beetle infestation is handled in Clermont County and Ohio will likely affect how other areas handle infestations.
“We need to make our stand now,” Uecker said.
Cara Bowen, Denae Bowen’s daughter, said she wanted to come help mark trees.
“I want to help because I have a lot of trees in my yard,” Cara Bowen said. “We play there and if they are taken away we won’t have anything to do.”
Judi Adams, with Community Savings Bank in Bethel, also volunteered to help mark trees Oct. 23.
“Looking at all this beauty in the fall, all that color would be gone if they cut our trees,” Adams said.
Denae Bowen said she hopes members of the cooperative and volunteers mark trees until they run out of ribbon and tape Oct. 23, but will not be finished there.
She said residents who are interested in marking their own properties can do so, and they will have tape available at local businesses soon.
“We hope this is an on-going project,” Bowen said.
USDA-APHIS has not yet announced additional eradication plans for Ohio.
The second environmental assessment was released May 9 and the comment period for the assessment ended July 9.
Rhonda Santos, public information officer for the USDA-APHIS, said they heard that the cooperative was planning on putting ribbons on healthy host trees in the area.
“As far as what the group is doing, anything to raise awareness is good,” Santos said.
She said they are still reviewing comments and have not made a decision about how to proceed if they take additional action in Ohio.
“Given how long the process has taken thus far, I do not have a time frame,” Santos said about a decision.
She said USDA-APHIS officials are still surveying trees and removing trees in the area.
“Surveys are always a part of what we do,” Santos said. “Removal of infested trees is a given.”
She said if chosen, implementing another eradication strategy or combination of strategies would be done so after additional research.
“It is definitely an integrated approach and a complex approach,” Santos said.
For more information about the Asian Longhorned Beetle Citizens’ Cooperative visit www.bethelalb.com for more information about the Asian longhorned beetle visit www.beetlebusters.info.