Invasive species destroying trees in Cattaraugus County forest

Nov 24, 2017

The emerald ash borer is becoming an issue for Cattaraugus County. The invasive species is a major problem for a portion of the 2,000 acres of county forest.

Dubbed "The Enchanted Mountains of Cattaraugus County," a portion of the Southern Tier hills have become home to the emerald ash borer.
Credit Jay Moran/WBFO

"The ash trees are going to disappear," said County Legislator Joe Snyder, who also works as a lumber buyer in the Southern Tier timber industry.

"So far, this borer has not changed species. It's specific to ash trees. It hasn't jumped to to the maples or the oaks or anything like that."

A segment of the forest near Portville appears to be hardest hit. The Legislature moved to salvage the situation, recently awarding a cutting contract to a Cortland company which will pay $258,000.

"As the ash trees are harvested, if they get harvested before they're damaged by the borer or if they are simply killed by the borer in the next few years, other species are going to grow and take their place," Snyder said.

"The forests are quite resilient."

The lack of ash trees will have an impact. The baseball bat company Louisville Slugger uses ash for many of its offerings. The next harvest from Cattaraugus County should have plenty of buyers, Snyder said.

"Some portion will go into China, probably in log form. Some will be sawn into boards which will be eventually used for furniture or for flooring, in this country. There's an industrial component to all timber which is used for pallets. The residues ground up and made into chips which are used for paper."

Cherry, soft maple and hard maple trees, Snyder says, are likely to emerge where ash trees once stood in Cattaraugus County.