USDA hosts first public forum since tree removal started in Cler - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Clermont Co. residents get answers from USDA on beetle infestation

CLERMONT COUNTY, OH (FOX19) -

Clermont County homeowners are trying to get answers directly from the United States Department of Agriculture about the Asian Longhorned Beetle infestation.

Tuesday evening the USDA hosted an informational forum to talk with property owners about the eradication process.

Homeowners have been trying to save their healthy non-infested trees for months and are getting frustrated with the process.

But the USDA says this project takes time and it is doing the best it can.

Bill Skvarla is not convinced.

Skvarla found the first beetle last June in a maple tree on his property and business Harmony Hill Vineyards.

Since November the USDA has cut down infested ALB trees and marked healthy potential host trees for possible removal.

"We do not trust them," says Skvarla who helped form the Bethel ALB Cooperative, a grassroots organization committed to maintaining healthy trees.

Homeowners are now waiting on the USDA to decide on a course of action based on four options in its May 2012 Environmental Assessment.

"This is a community effort and naturally we want to do what is most prudent to combat the beetle but take into consideration the impact potentially," says Brendon Reardon.

Reardon wrote the EA and is the USDA's National Program Manager for the ALB Program.

Homeowners are also concerned over the eradication process based on the USDA's guidelines for tree removal which state: "...vehicles should be tarped...material may be held no longer than 24 hours."

"Instead of doing that they just piled them into the back of a truck and then pulled the truck over off of 125 at a school bus parking garage and it sat there for the rest of the weekend. I think they finally got around to chipping them trees about 2 yesterday afternoon," says Skvarla.

The USDA's ALB Local Program Manager Phil Baldauf says he is working with limited resources

"Sometimes things get missed, we do our best to make sure that they don't," says Baldauf.

The USDA is currently collecting comments within the EA's 60 public comment period, the deadline to submit a comment is July 9.

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