Connecticut’s Ash Trees in Big Trouble

July 27, 2014

Only two years after its discovery in a single town in Connecticut, a dreaded invasive insect that attacks ash trees already has spread into five counties, a death sentence for tens of thousands of trees.

The emerald ash borer is expected to infest and kills many thousands of white oaks in Connecticut in coming years. Photo courtesy of the U. S. Forest Service. Click to enlarge.

The emerald ash borer is expected to infest and kill many thousands of white oaks in Connecticut in coming years. Photo courtesy of the U. S. Forest Service. Click to enlarge.

“It is exploding,” said Kirby C. Stafford III, a scientist with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station who also is the designated state entomologist. “We our going to lose our ash.”

The insect, the emerald ash borer, native to Asia, was first discovered in Michigan in 2002 and has spread throughout the Midwest, parts of the south and the northeast, already having killed millions of ash trees.

My story on the spread of the insect appears today on the cover of the Connecticut news section of The Hartford Courant. Here is the link to the full story: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-ash-trees-threatened-20140728,0,5263723.story

Once centered in New Haven County, the beetle has now spread to Fairfield, Hartford, Litchfield and Middlesex counties. With a new discovery in Bridgeport in recent days, the beetle has now been identified in 39 cities and towns in Connecticut, 24 of them this year.

Ash trees – white ash is the most common, but green ash also is found in Connecticut – make up between 4 percent and 15 percent of Connecticut forests. They are found throughout the state, but are especially numerous in a long south-to-north band in western Litchfield County and in northern Middlesex, eastern Hartford and southern Tolland counties.

Stafford said it is likely the beetle already is established in other towns. The state has a monitoring program to help identify newly affected forests. That it will be found in coming years in all 169 cities and towns in Connecticut appears inevitable.

White ash is a handsome tree with ash-colored bark in a distinctive, tight, diamond-like pattern. The wood is strong, light and pliable and has been used for baseball bats, tennis racquets and hockey sticks, among many other uses. In fall, the white ash is one of the distinctive components of the iconic New England fall foliage color, many of the trees displaying leaves of a light purple hue, rare in the foliage palette.

The Lifeblood of the Landscape

July 23, 2014

I like to say that rivers are the lifeblood of the landscape.

Here in Connecticut, as in so much of the developed world, we haven’t always treated them well, lifeblood or not.

The Farmington River is among many in Connecticut that were burdened with pollution into the 1960s. With a major cleanup effort, the river by the mid-1970s was far cleaner. Today it is an enormously popular recreational river, heavily used by canoeists, kayakers, tubers, and anglers. Click to enlarge.

The Farmington River is among many in Connecticut that were burdened with pollution into the 1960s. With a major cleanup effort, the river by the mid-1970s was far cleaner. Today it is an enormously popular recreational river, heavily used by canoeists, kayakers, tubers, and anglers. Click to enlarge.

We have fouled them with human and industrial wastes. We have deforested their watersheds, with huge impacts as sediments were washed from cleared land. We constructed dams on practically every brook, stream and river of any size in Connecticut – literally thousands of them – choking them. We’ve introduced so many fish species into Connecticut waters that stream fauna is forever changed, often for the worse.

I’ve written a longish piece for The Hartford Courant that takes a look at the history of rivers in Connecticut. Beginning in the late 1960s we began to clean up our rivers, with substantial success in reducing sewage and industrial pollution. Many rivers once filthy are now clean enough for swimming, fishing and boating.

But big problems remain, including runoff pollution  from streets, driveways and parking lots.

Here is a link to the story: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/courant-250/moments-in-history/hc-250-rivers-connecticut-20140719,0,7527600.story

Hiking and Yoga is a Great Combination

May 15, 2014

Among the 258 events scheduled statewide for National Trails Day weekend in Connecticut June 7 and 8 is a hike combined with yoga in the nearly 800-acre Penwood State Park in Bloomfield.

A hiker does tree pose from the Cedar Ridge Lookout in Penwood State Park, Bloomfield.

A hiker does yoga's tree pose from the Cedar Ridge Lookout in Penwood State Park, Bloomfield. Click to enlarge.

We’ll hike the yellow-blazed trail along the northern reach of the Talcott Mountain Range to the Cedar Ridge Lookout and back, about 3 miles round-trip over moderate terrain. Expect great views of the Farmington Valley to the west and south from the lookout. Wildflowers, abundant bird life and a rich mix of tree species add to the appeal of this trail.

At the trailhead, before the hiking begins, Leslie Gordon, co-owner of the Be Yoga studio in Avon, will lead hikers through a brief series of warm-up yoga poses. After the hike, participants will travel the short distance to Leslie’s studio, where she will lead a 45-minute session of poses that will gently stretch and rejuvenate muscles worked while hiking. No yoga experience is required.

The hike and yoga are free, but the outing is limited to 20 people. It is not too early to sign up. Similar hikes the past two years have filled up. For questions or to register, contact hike leader Steve Grant at steve@thestevegrantwebsite.com or 203-733-0079. Or, contact yoga leader Leslie Gordon at leslie@beyogainavon.com or 860-930-1311.

This hike also is open to families participating in the Great Park Pursuit program sponsored by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Families can document their participation by taking a photograph with a Great Park Pursuit sign that will be available at the hike trailhead.

Hikers will meet at the Penwood State Park entrance parking lot on the north side of Route 185 at 8 a.m. Sunday, June 8. Rain cancels. No dogs. Pre-registration is required. We expect the event to end by noon.