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Ancient Hemlocks of Cook Forest Under Attack

Thursday, July 27, 2017 @ 01:07 AM

Posted by Scott Shindledecker

Susquehannock Hemlock3COOKSBURG, Pa. (EYT) – The fight to kill and contain the hemlock woolly adelgid has been in force at Cook Forest and Clear Creek State Parks, and more efforts are underway to contain the insect.

The woolly adelgid is an Asian insect that has killed thousands of hemlock trees in Pennsylvania and is a threat to the Eastern hemlocks in the parks and surrounding areas.

Dale Luthringer, the Environmental Education Specialist at Cook Forest State Park as well as a big tree enthusiast, said efforts at the park have been ongoing since the insect was found in the park in March of 2013.

“Fortunately, we were able to quickly move to start treatments to kill it in May that year, and we’ve been at it every year since,” Luthringer said. “We’ve been able to treat about 5,000 trees, but that’s still just scratching the surface. We have 11 different stands of old-growth hemlocks covering 2,000 acres.”

“Fortunately, we haven’t lost very many hemlocks to it.”

This weekend, the Sawmill Theater will lend a helping hand to the fundraising efforts when it shows a high-definition short film, produced by Wild Excellence Films, about the ancient hemlock trees of Cook Forest which are under attack from the destructive insect that threatens the park’s old growth forest, a National Natural Landmark.

The film “Cathedral: The Fight to Save the Ancient Hemlocks of Cook Forest” covers threats to the forest and effort to combat this invasive insect. It will be shown at 8:00 p.m. on Friday and on Saturday.

The film’s primary purpose is to educate the widest possible audience about this issue, to inspire action, and to raise money for the treatment of the trees.

The admission is $15.00, and the money raised from the showings will be donated to the PA Parks and Forest Foundation, so it can help fund treatment and education efforts.

Tickets can be purchased here.

wooly_adelgidLuthringer said one of the difficulties of fighting the insect is getting people to realize why it’s important.

“If it were to get out of control and kill thousands of trees here, it would be very bad for many reasons,” Luthringer said. “Most of our cold-water streams are shaded by hemlocks, and if we end up with a bunch of dead trees, those streams could see a temperature increase of 5 to 7 degrees.”

“That affects the aquatic life that lives there, which affects the trout that live there, so trout fishermen should care about it.”

“The other problem is the appearance of thousands of dead trees. The woolly adelgid has decimated the hemlocks in the Great Smoky Mountains, particularly along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s not something we want to have happen here.”

DCNR has embarked on a two-pronged treatment effort that relies on the selective application of insecticides and the release of predatory beetles.

“The other thing is that private landowners can treat their trees. They can get the chemical and do this themselves. It’s much cheaper than waiting to have a dead tree that needs cut down, which can cost thousands of dollars,” Luthringer said. “As for the money we receive for treatment, it varies from year to year. We are grateful for what we get, but it can be a challenge to do what needs done.”

Luthringer talked about the predatory beetles that will kill the adelgids.

“We’d like to get the western strain, which is more capable of surviving here and doing its job to eliminate the adelgids. It is a more permanent solution as opposed to continuing to keep applying the chemicals,” Luthringer said.

DCNR has partnered with the USDA Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, and other interested organizations to implement an eastern hemlock management plan for northwestern Pennsylvania.

Also, the bureau has completed a hemlock conservation plan for the state.

“We’re not sitting back and doing nothing,” Luthringer said. “It’s not hopeless, but people have to want to get involved and want to help.”

The 8,500-acre Cook Forest State Park and 3,136-acre Clarion River Lands lie in scenic northwestern Pennsylvania. Known for its stands of old growth forest, the park’s Forest Cathedral of towering white pines and hemlocks is a National Natural Landmark.

For more information, check out these sites:

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