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Cornell will fell 1,700+ ash trees infested by beetle

An emerald ash borer flashes its wings. (Provided photo — Benjamin Smith, via Wikimedia Commons)

ITHACA (AP) — An invasive insect that kills ash trees is prompting Cornell University to fell 1,700 of the trees on its lands, a step it says will visibly alter the campus’s appearance.

The trees infested by the emerald ash borer will be felled between January and the end of March and include trees on and off campus, the university said Dec. 22.

The beetle, which bores under the tree’s bark, kills most infested ash trees within four years, creating a hazard.

“This is a safety issue with trees that are dying or near death, and will eventually fall, so we are going to need to take them down in order to limit concerns about public safety and property damage,” said Todd Bittner, director of natural areas for Cornell Botanic Gardens.

“The work will be highly visible and will, unfortunately, create significant changes on the campus landscape for decades,” he said.

The emerald ash borer was first recorded in Tompkins County in 2018, the university said. The university has documented 3,800 ash trees on its lands.

It has already treated more than 170 trees it has identified as high-value with pesticides, a process it says is expensive and must be repeated. The university says it is fundraising to plant replacements for the trees that it cuts.

Ash trees, which are found widely across New York state, were planted after the demise of elm trees to Dutch elm disease, according to the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation. The state has restrictions on the transportation of firewood, which can contribute to the spread of the pest.

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