TO THE EDITOR:
As warmer weather sets in, the trees fill out and the flowers start to bloom, we are reminded why Tennessee is a beautiful state to call home.
However, you may not realize that those trees and plants may be at risk. Invasive plant pests and diseases are a threat that is easy to overlook yet can have a devastating impact on our entire state.
Once pests and diseases establish in an area, they don’t move far on their own. Everyday actions — like taking firewood from your home to your campsite or mailing a gift of homegrown fruits or plants — can contribute to unintentional spread. So when people wonder if their individual actions really matter, the answer is yes.
Insects like the emerald ash borer (EAB), gypsy moth (GM) and Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) present a constant threat to the Volunteer State. These insects can hide in or on firewood and it only takes one person to move something they shouldn’t. For instance, we know the EAB beetle didn’t fly to Tennessee on its own. It hitchhiked here, and to 30 other states. Now all of our urban, suburban and rural ash trees are at risk of attack.
If we allow invasive plant pests and diseases to enter our state, the impacts can be far-reaching. Pests have the power to devastate our neighborhoods and public green spaces, and cause harm to native species of plants, forests, watersheds, lakes, rivers and water delivery systems. As it stands today, damage from invasive plant pests costs our nation about $40 billion annually.
To protect Tennessee, we are asking you to join us in the battle. As Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month draws to a close, we can’t let that awareness waver. For more information and ideas for how you can get involved, the website www.protecttnforests.org is a valuable resource. We urge you to do what you can to help stop the spread of these harmful pests.
Jai Templeton, the Tennessee Commissioner of Agriculture
Jason Watkins, U.S. Department of Agriculture APHIS State Plant Health Director