The Glocester Democratic Town Committee sponsored a non-partisan community forum on Monday, April 24th designed to prepare local citizens for a potential devastating gypsy moth caterpillar invasion. The Manton Free Public Library was packed to capacity as over 70 people attended the discussion and were given a bleak picture of what to expect over the next several months.
Committee Chair Lew Pryeor invited Dept. of Environmental Management employee Paul M. Ricard to give the formal presentation. Paul is the coordinator of Forest Health Program, a division of DEM located right here in Glocester.
The engaged crowd was able to get all of their questions addressed and learned what will most likely happen to the town’s beautiful woods and forests. Upon learning that the invasion will probably be much more deadly this year than last year, a collective moan could be heard throughout the audience. Citizens were all there looking for some positive news, but little was given. Insecticide spraying, and tree taping may help a bit but widespread aerial spraying was ruled out due to cost and limited resources that the agency has. Sure, people may save the foliage on an isolated tree or two by taking preventative measures – but considering the invasion will likely be in the millions and millions of the repugnant worms saving acres of trees or even a yards worth will be highly unlikely. It was not even recommended to take down infested trees because down the road they can become homes for woodpeckers and other animal life. Extreme dieoff of trees including pines is anticipated should this pattern continue for 3 or more years.
“The RI D.E.M Forestry Division had over 30 employees in the 1990’s and is down to just 12 workers”, said Ricard, not nearly enough to combat what could be an epic invasion, not only in Glocester and northwest RI, but throughout the state. Although a division of the DEM the Forestry department is actually federally funded through the US Farm Bill, further cuts even with this current administration were deemed unlikely.
A wet spring may assist in creating a deadly fungus to those creepy worms that munch their way through hundreds of thousands of acres of trees, but major benefits will probably not be felt until 2018. The people of NW RI, however, are still hoping for that silver lining of a very, very wet spring. And, somehow, against all odds, their prayers will be answered and that the invasion will not be the horrific catastrophe that is anticipated.
For additional information visit the DEM’s Gypsy moth link at http://dem.ri.gov/programs/forestry/gypsy-moths/
Executive summary from 2014 – 2016 is here
Editor’s note: Lauren Niedel is the vice chair of the Glocester Democratic Town Committee.