- The Washington Times - Monday, May 28, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Maryland officials are offering to help residents whose trees had to be cut down after a tree-killing beetle reappeared in Prince George’s County.

The state will provide $150 vouchers this year to about 700 homeowners who had roughly 2,000 trees removed from their properties, allowing them to buy replacements. The homeowners also can buy trees at half price at three nurseries that have a partnership with the state.

Delegate Barbara A. Frush, Prince George’s Democrat, said the state Department of Natural Resources asked her to introduce the legislation that allowed for the vouchers.

“They felt it was an issue of fairness,” she said. “They can’t financially compensate them, but they can help give them other trees.”

Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, signed the bill last month.

Sue duPont, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture, said the vouchers and discounted prices are available only to residents in a 21-square-mile area of the county — near Clinton and Brandywine — where the trees were removed.

Maryland officials cut down 25,000 trees in the county this year after finding the beetles, which also have destroyed thousands of ash trees in the Midwest.

The emerald ash borer, which came from Asia, first showed up in the United States in Michigan and subsequently appeared in Ohio and Indiana. The first infested ash tree in Maryland was found in a nursery in Clinton in 2003.

Maryland officials say the nursery unknowingly received 121 ash trees from a Michigan nursery. At the time, there was a ban on exporting ash trees from Michigan, so Stuart Levy, the Michigan nurseryman responsible for the shipment, was fined $12,300 and received a two-year probation barring him from conducting nursery business.

Maryland responded by destroying 1,000 potentially infested trees and restricting movement of ash trees from the Clinton area.

Last year, the beetle reappeared in the county, so Maryland officials cut down more than 20,000 trees to help protect the state’s nursery industry.

John Denison, owner of Denison Landscaping and Nursery in Accokeek, said his business will lose $150,000 if its ash trees are destroyed.

Mr. Denison said he doesn’t understand why the state is not adequately compensating nursery owners, who are stuck with trees they cannot sell. He said the state has offered to buy 100 trees for $30 each, but his company has 5,000.

“They are replacing the homeowners’ trees,” Mr. Denison said. “They lose one, but we lose 5,000. I think there should be a difference there.”

Mrs. duPont said the state is replacing homeowners’ trees for environmental reasons. She said it is unfortunate that nurseries cannot sell the trees, but “it’s the risk of doing business.”

“For a nurseryman, there are all kinds of pests that can cause havoc,” Mrs. duPont said.

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