Beetle Strikes Out, Threatens National Pastime

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Published on June 25th, 2009  |  Discuss This Article  

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When we wrote about the threat of the emerald ash borer back in April, things seemed bad, but the main source of wood for Louisville Slugger bats was still (kind of) safe. 

How things can change in just two short months.

On June 15th, the emerald ash borer was confirmed present in Cattaraugus County, NY, a region famous for its baseball bat-producing ash trees.

The beetle, native to East Asia, arrived in Detroit some 10 years ago, probably by hitchhiking in wooden crates or pallets. Since then, it has killed more than 25 million trees across the upper Midwest and in Ontario

New York has more than 600 million ash trees — all of which are now at risk

Which begs the questions: Will A-Rod have to swap his ash for aluminum? And will Beltran have to say bye-bye to his R.B.I.?

It depends on New York’s outdoor enthusiasts. Because the beetle can only move short distances on its own, long distance dispersal is usually due to humans moving infected live trees, logs, pallets or firewood. We could limit the spread of this invasive pest just by remembering to not move firewood — and to buy it where we burn it.  

If we don’t, America’s national pastime — and natural landscape — could be vastly different in just a few short years.

Emily Manley is a marketing specialist for The Nature Conservancy in New York.

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