Homeowners in Clermont County fight to keep healthy trees

TATE TOWNSHIP, OH (FOX19) - Homeowners fighting to keep healthy trees in Clermont County are one step closer to protecting them.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) started cutting down trees infested with the Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) last fall in Bethel, Ohio, part of Tate Township.

The USDA is also proposing removing all healthy potential host trees for ALB within a quarter mile radius as a pre-caution.

This week, the USDA announced it is pushing back it's Environmental Assessment (EA) until mid-Spring before it makes a final decision on removing the un-infested trees.

In an email the USDA says, "…the Environmental Assessment will not be issued in January, as it is taking longer than first thought to complete…"

"It's a victory of sorts...a small victory none the less," says Bill Skvarla.

Skvarla was the first to sight the beetle last June on his property and business Harmony Hills Vineyard in Tate Township.

The USDA is currently removing between 5,000 to 5,500 ALB infested trees.

If it removes all surrounding healthy trees the number jumps to between 55,000 and 100,000 potential host trees.

"By wiping all of the species out you're causing erosion problems we all have septic systems here that cannot handle that kind of water, we have the wildlife, the indigenous wildlife," says Nancy McCarthy.

The USDA removed about a dozen trees from McCarthy's property Wednesday, it was an emotional moment watching them cut down her "swing tree" where her children and grandchildren loved to play.

"They just did [it] last night and I had to cry over that one," says McCarthy.

The ALB infested tree eradication is scheduled to last through April 1 but Skvarla predicts it will take longer because of the wet weather and difficult terrain.

The USDA says once the EA is released mid-Spring the public will have time to comment.

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