By K.B. Sherman, Contributing Writer
Before their decision, the board first heard from Clint McFarland, representative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“Yes, it does mean some deforestation of private property in Shrewsbury,” McFarland said of the proposal.
The pest, which originated in Asia, was first discovered in North America in 1996. Believed to have been accidentally introduced to the United States via solid wood packaging material, it is particularly fond of maple trees in or near wetlands. It burrows into the trees, slowly killing them. The only way to end their infestation is to cut down the trees to the root level and discard them through wood-chipping and burning. The use of herbicides is not being considered in Shrewsbury.
The northwest quarter of Shrewsbury is the hardest hit, where multiple infestations have been located in the areas near Route 290 and Lake Quinsigamond. McFarland explained that the first phase of the deforestation should be completed soon, with work along Route 290 being done in part by Vegetation Control Service, of Athol.
“Large parts of northwest Shrewsbury will, unfortunately, be largely deforested,” he said. ?”Maples in wetlands will be particularly hard.”
The result of the “Asian Longhorn Beetle Full Host Removal Plan” (FHR) will be that where there are woods, there will now be open fields until trees re-grow. Part of the process will be reforestation, although it will be many years before deforested areas return to tree cover, he added.
McFarland noted that under federal law, the USDA automatically “owns” any infested trees and can remove them at will, but that the government wants to keep affected towns informed and gain their support in their efforts.
Board of Selectman Chair Maurice DePalo thanked McFarland for his willingness to work with the town to mitigate the results of deforestation, as much of the affected land is private property. He then asked what effect the deforestation would have on wildlife such as deer. McFarland said that deer are very resilient and that wildlife would not be harmed by the FHR.
The Board then voted 5-0 to approve the tree-cutting plan. The plan can be viewed at Town Hall during normal business hours.