New York: In 2007, a group of American Indians met with foresters, biologists, environmentalists, university professors and government employees to address the plight of the ash tree. That concern now include citizens who can collect seeds in the fall for preservation.
Ash trees are strong and flexible and are an important source of hardwood. They are also a traditional material for basket makers.
Ash trees are vital to cities and other areas because they because they breathe gaseous air pollutants. They also provide shade, help disperse storm waters, and shelter urban animals. When the Dutch elm disease killed many trees, ash trees were planted to replace them.
Today the trees are already struggling due to logging, pollution, droughts and invasive species. Now they face advancing hoards of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), a tiny iridescent green beetle that arrived in Michigan hidden in packing material used to ship cargo from Asia.
This tiny killer was discovered in 2002 and spread quickly to Ontario, Quebec, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Missouri, Virginia and New York State.
EAB lays its eggs in the bark’s crevices. The larvae bore holes into the trunks which blocks the movement of water and nutrients the tree needs to live. Tens of millions of ash trees have choked to death from the bug. Others were cut down in an effort to contain infestations.
The USDA Forest Service estimated that it could cost nearly $7,000,000,000 to remove and replace dead and dying ash trees over the next 25 years.
Regulations, quarantines and fines are in place to prevent ash trees, logs or firewood from moving out of areas where EAB has been seen. Biological warfare was declared when the USDA released hundreds of Chinese wasps, each no larger than a sesame seed and host-specific to the EAB. Purple traps, a color EAB is attracted to, were hung across regions to capture the beetle and detect its presence. And still the bug keeps spreading.
The black ash, called ehsa in Mohawk, is valued by Native peoples for its bark and leaves that treat fever, kidney and urinary infections. Baskets woven from strips of its wood continue to be a part of the Mohawk ceremonial language used in baskets for birth, marriage, work and death's journey back to the Sky World. Knowledge about selecting and harvesting logs has been passed down through ancestors for hundreds of generations.
As the black ash began to disappear back in 1990 the Mohawk Community of Akwesasne, NY and the Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment (ATFE) began to look for ways to restore the black ash trees. Mohawks and Mi'qmac's from the U.S. and Canada began collecting seeds to bring back to their communities. They traveled in winds and rains to find seeds, carried their ladders, tarps and pruning poles to several states. Thanks to their efforts, 100,000 saplings wereplanted..
They thought they were done. Now, because of EAB, they continue again and hope others will be trained to identify and gather the seeds.
Further initiatives to expand stands of black ash and the medicinal plants growing with it continue. One of the conference goals was to inventory of what types of ash trees are found where, which trees fit varying needs and to aid in planting more.
The efforts range from
Efforts by students and academics to studying various aspects of black ash
Develop long-term efforts among all agencies for technical resources, management, greenhouse culture, new plantings and storage which will preserve the seeds 100 years.
If you want to get involved in these efforts, check out the
|The National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation
|The National Seed Laboratory
| Emerald Ash Borer's website