By Kristin Bednarski
The United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service released a revised environmental assessment Jan. 16 that includes additional research and identifies a preferred alternative for eradication.
“The revised EA is being released to the public because there is quite a bit more information in it than the original assessment that was released in May,” Rhonda Santos, public information officer for the USDA-APHIS, said.
Santos said the revised assessment addresses public comments, provides additional information about the environmental impact of the proposed alternatives for continued eradication, and identifies a preferred alternative for continued eradication of the Asian longhorned beetle.
The Asian longhorned beetle is an invasive pest that was discovered in Tate Township in June of 2011.
The environmental assessment that was released in May highlighted several alternatives for continued eradication efforts including full host removal, imidacloprid chemical treatment of high risk host trees, and a combination of high risk host removal and chemical treatment.
Santos said the preferred alternative identified in the revised environmental assessment is Alternative D, which is a combination of high risk host removal and chemical treatment.
“Alternatives B through D are all options achieving eradication,” Santos said. “D will allow the most flexibility because it is a combination of B and C, treatment and the removal of high risk host trees.”
Santos said now that they have released the revised assessment, they will have another public comment period until February 16 to get feedback about the revised assessment.
“It definitely gives another opportunity for the public to review the proposed plan and comment,” Santos said.
Santos said once they collect and evaluate comments from the revised assessment, they hope to be able to make a final determination.
“The hope is that we would be able to make a final determination and be able to move forward with some alternative action,” Santos said.
Santos said they are still removing confirmed infested trees in the county.
As of November 14, 2012, USDA-APHIS contractors have removed more than 9,000 ALB invested trees from the county and have surveyed more than 250,000 trees.
Bill Skvarla, a member of the Bethel Asian Longhorned Beetle Citizens’ Cooperative in Bethel, said members of the cooperative are reviewing the revised assessment, comparing it with the original assessment, and evaluating the details.
“I’m optimistic, but cautious,” Skvarla said about the revised assessment.
Skvarla said the assessment identifies a preferred method, explains more about the environmental impacts of the alternatives and answers many questions that were submitted in comments.
He said the preferred alternative also indicates that property owners could have some say about eradication methods used on their property.
“Though it seems outwardly like a small victory, we are staying defensive,” Skvarla said about the revised assessment.
Skvarla said the cooperative will hold a public meeting to discuss the revised assessment at 6 p.m. Jan. 29 at the Grant Career Center.
He said they are encouraging people to ask questions and comment on the revised assessment.
“We need to get the word out there that people need to be as diligent about commenting on this EA as they did on the original,” Skvarla said. “Even if it is nothing more than agreeing, we need to get those numbers up again.”
The public comment period for the revised environmental assessment is open until Feb. 16.
The revised environmental assessment is available at www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/ea/alb.shtml.
There is also a question and answer fact sheet about the revised assessment available on the website.
Paper copies of the environmental assessment can be obtained by contacting Robyn Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at USDA/APHIS/PPQ, ALB Eradication Program, 4700 River Road, Unit 137, Riverdale MD 20737.
Comments about the environmental assessment can be sent to Robyn Rose via email or by mail.
More information about the Asian longhorned beetle, and links to the environmental assessment documents, can be found at www.beetlebusters.info.