SVCA to undertake a major cull of ash trees due to infestation

Since arriving in Ontario in the early 2000s, the emerald ash borer (EAB) has destroyed millions of ash trees. Emerald ash borer is a highly destructive, non-native, wood-boring beetle that feeds under the bark of ash trees, girdling the trees and eventually killing them. Despite regulations to limit the spread of the pest, and inoculation practices, EAB has continued to spread across the range of ash in Ontario, which includes SVCA properties.

Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority forestry staff have assessed the managed forest at Stoney Island Conservation Area (Stoney Island Conservation Area, located at 434 Bruce Road 23, Kincardine) and observed that the majority of ash trees of all sizes have become infested and are declining rapidly. SVCA forestry staff have received approval to move forward with the removal of approximately 7,300 ash trees on the property. Removal is not optional and is performed to ensure the safety of the people who enjoy the property as a space for recreation.

Removal will begin in mid to late summer 2023. The public should anticipate Stoney Island Conservation Area being closed for up to 2.5 months, allowing time for both removal and clean-up operations.

Donna Lacey, Manager of Forestry and Lands, Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority says that, “We appreciate that the temporary loss of access and the change in appearance to a local and beloved hiking, skiing, and birding location will be upsetting for those who enjoy it regularly. We want those who frequent Stoney Island Conservation Area to know what to expect.

This harvest is not an activity that we desire to undertake. The ash that are killed by EAB are extremely hazardous to property users. EAB has forced agencies such as SVCA to abandon proper forest management planning to instead remove trees based solely on species and safety concerns.

Under no circumstances should the public attempt to explore the property during the ash removal process. The process of tree removal at this scale is extremely dangerous. SVCA staff will be supervising the removal and working hard to re-open the trail system. SVCA will clearly advertise (through signage and other communication) when the property has been made safe again and is open for visitors.”

What happens next?

Saugeen Conservation will hold a public meeting on Tuesday, July 25th, 2023, from 7:00 to 8:00 pm in the Penetangore Room at the Davidson Centre in Kincardine. Aimed at addressing any concerns and providing insight into the situation, the gathering will serve as a platform for community members to understand the necessity and safety measures taken for the process. SVCA’s forestry staff will be present to explain the urgency of the removal, the imminent temporary closure of the Conservation Area, and the safety hazards linked to the emerald ash borer infestation.

Once the harvest is complete, visitors can expect to see remaining trees growing quite quickly with the increase in sunlight. While the landscape will be drastically changed, nature has a strong will. New ash trees will re-sprout from their stumps and the forest will regrow naturally. Trees will be planted by SVCA into areas in which there is little natural regeneration.

Signs of emerald ash borer on heavily infested trees:

–         Small D shaped holes
–         Bark has an alligator skin appearance where bark has been flicked off
–         Leaf loss and dead branches at the top of the tree
–         Vertical cracks in the trunk of the tree
–         More woodpeckers than average

SVCA Forestry and Landowner Services:

Saugeen Conservation forestry staff are skilled workers and can support property owners through a variety of forestry services such as tree marking, vegetation control, tree planting, and forest management planning.