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We Didn’t Find Anything…And That’s a Good Thing!

Posted on Mar 27, 2015

After two months of intensive winter survey work, we found nothing. However, that’s precisely the result we wanted. As you’ve probably seen or heard, this past winter we surveyed several sites throughout the area looking exclusively for Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA), an invasive insect that puts all Eastern Hemlock trees (Tsuga canadensis), the habitats they make up and the wildlife they support at risk. This particular pest is minute, but can bring a tree to its death within a matter of 3-5 years if left unchecked and untreated. In response to this, several organizations, state and federal agencies and even policy makers throughout New York and Pennsylvania have jump started various efforts in order to slow the progression of HWA. Beginning last year, and growing this year, our own collaborative projects and contributions to other projects took off resulting in lots of great conservation and education related work.

From November to March lots of coordinating, preparation work, trainings and surveys took place. Though we gathered negative results in our surveys, we received many positive results through all the work that accompanied our surveys, and accomplished the following:

  • Worked with 6 different organizations including the U.S. Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, WNY PRISM, Jamestown Community College, Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County.
  • Provided information and training to nearly 60 people that attended our Forest Pest Information Session in December (collaborative presentation by RTPI and CCE), Forest Pest First Detector’s Training in February (hosted by RTPI and presented by WNY PRISM), and our various on-site trainings during our surveys.
WNY PRISM Training (1)

Andrea Locke from WNY PRISM talking about HWA during the Forest Pest training session.

  • Reached countless people through social media posts and articles in the Post-Journal, many of which called or emailed asking for more information on HWA.
  • Erected 15 Collaborative Forest Pest Project (“Help Me”) signs in two different locations along the snowmobile and overland trails, making information available about HWA and EAB to outdoor recreationalists on the winter trails.
Help Me! Hemlock

Help Me signs were erected in two locations and more will be going up this coming spring and summer!

  • Surveyed 6 different sites and evaluated over 1,500 trees, none of which had any signs of HWA.
Eastern Hemlock density for Chautauqua County. Map provided by The Nature Conservancy.

With help from our friends at the Nature Conservancy, who created this map for us, we were able to prioritize sites to be surveyed. CWC picked out three sites of high priority based off of the density of hemlocks in each site.

Healthy Hemlock Needles

This sight brought a smile to our faces and a sigh of relief, as all the hemlock trees we surveyed had healthy needles and twigs just like this one.

  • Joined by 12 different volunteers and 6 different JCC students during our survey efforts.

A number of our fearless JCC students that endured cold temperatures and deep snow to assist in our surveys. (Photo taken at South Valley State Forest)

Hatch Run Survey

With a combination of great JCC students, fabulous volunteers, and committed JCC, CWC and RTPI staff, our team of surveyors had every tree covered! (Photo taken at Hatch Run Conservation Demonstration Area)

Dobbin's Woods HWA Survey

As the season progressed we were often joined by new faces, all of which were hard working individuals excited to help any way possible. (Photo taken at Dobbin’s Woods Preserve CWC property)

HWA Lady Surveyors

Smiles were all around after completing surveys and confirming HWA was no where in sight. (Photo taken at Cassadaga Creek Preserve CWC property)

  • Worked with a fantastic honors student from JCC whom we trained and equipped to lead her own survey on the JCC campus woodlot.
JCC HWA Survey

Our dedicated honors student led a survey of her own, which she organized and gathered other students up to help, at the JCC woodlot. This was another spot that came up clean and was full of healthy hemlocks.

It was a great season of work and now that it is complete, we are left with a feeling that we did make a positive impact through simply spreading the word about HWA and getting boots (in this case winter boots!) on the ground. While we can’t necessarily keep HWA from coming, we can certainly stop it once it arrives through these education initiatives and early detection surveys. As we move into spring, we will continue to get information out on other invasive species approaching or existing in the area and let you know how you can help spread the word while preventing the actual spread of each!

Elyse Henshaw
Conservation Technician