Trees and forests are integral to our American way of life. They give us shade and shelter, refuge and refreshment, clean air and water. From tree-lined neighborhood streets, to sun-dappled urban parks, to national parks blanketed in green, we count on them to be there for the next generation.
But today, many of America’s trees and forests are being destroyed by invasive insects and diseases. These invaders are removing entire species of trees from our forests and neighborhoods, threatening our air, water and way of life. With global trade, non-native organisms hitchhike their way into North America aboard wood packaging or nursery plants. The emerald ash borer has laid bare suburban streets in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana, and now threatens Illinois and Wisconsin; a pathogen known as sudden oak death has killed more than 1 million trees in California. Such invaders will cost the United States potentially billions of dollars in prevention and eradication.
In the United States we are working to restore America’s forests through on-the-ground partnerships that benefit people, water, and wildlife. Existing laws can stop invading pests and diseases – but only if those laws are enforced. The Nature Conservancy has joined with other like-minded organizations to urge Congress to increase funding to combat destructive insects and diseases. Without adequate funding, the primary agency charged with protecting U.S. forests and agricultural plants can’t fulfill its mandate. The Conservancy has also made recommendations about how to improve existing regulations. As a nation, we must also create incentives to encourage industry to take action as well.
What The Nature Conservancy and Its Partners Are Doing
- We have joined with fifteen other organizations to recommend adequate funding levels for government programs that eradicate pests already in the United States.
- We have organized a multi-stakeholder dialogue to promote communication and cooperative action.
- We have produced a Conservancy research report on the role that live plants play in introducing new pests to the continent and what to do about it.
- We support the efforts of USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and other groups to encourage a systems approach to ensuring nursery stock sold in the United States is free of pests and pathogens.
What You Can Do
- Ask your congressional representatives to enable the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to enforce existing laws.
- Ask your local nursery to ask their suppliers if they have adopted best management practices to ensure their plants are free of invasive insects and diseases.
- Clean your boots carefully after hiking in a forest to avoid spreading diseases such as sudden oak death.
- Buy or cut firewood only near where you plan to use it; do not transport it more than 50 miles, so that insects present in the wood don’t travel with you.
- Support The Nature Conservancy’s work to prevent and combat invasive species that harm trees and forests.