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Smokejumpers as “Beetle Busters”

USDA Forest Service Smokejumpers are trained to climb trees in case they, or their supplies, land in them.  When Smokejumpers aren’t fighting wildfires, the USDA Forest Service calls on them to use their tree climbing skills to complete a variety of natural resource management projects, such as harvesting pine cones and constructing owl nesting boxes.

USDA Forest Service Smokejumpers are trained to climb trees in case they, or their supplies, land in them. When Smokejumpers aren’t fighting wildfires, the USDA Forest Service calls on them to use their tree climbing skills to complete a variety of natural resource management projects, such as harvesting pine cones and constructing owl nesting boxes.

While many USDA Forest Service employees spend their summers working as Smokejumpers fighting wildfires in the west, they in turn spend their falls in the east working as Beetle Busters, helping the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) combat the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB).

Since these nonnative insects were first discovered in Brooklyn, New York in 1996, the  ALB has caused tens of thousands of trees to be destroyed in Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. They  feed- and develop deep inside certain species of hardwood trees, weakening and eventually killing them.

To stop the destruction from furthering, Smokejumpers soon began working as “tree climbers” to help APHIS identify trees infested with ALB. Smokejumpers are highly trained, skilled, and experienced wild land firefighters – taking their past expertise, and putting it to use saving trees from another grave danger: the Asian longhorned beetle.

While climbing, these Forest Service employees seek out dime-sized holes that indicate the presence of the destructive ALB in tree canopies soaring over ten stories high. Once the infested trees are recorded on a GPS unit, they are ready to be marked with paint so they can be removed.

This past fall, about 40 Smokejumpers worked as tree climbers in Worcester, Massachusetts. Click here to see video, hear interviews and see photos of the Smokejumpers in action. If you would like more information about the ALB, log onto www.beetlebusters.info.

USDA Forest Service Smokejumper Erinkate Springer, from the USDA Forest Service Redding Smokejumper Base in California, discovers an Asian Longhorned Beetle egg site, which indicates an infested tree that will need to be removed (the egg is the white spot that looks like a grain of rice in the middle of the dark area).

USDA Forest Service Smokejumper Erinkate Springer, from the USDA Forest Service Redding Smokejumper Base in California, discovers an Asian Longhorned Beetle egg site, which indicates an infested tree that will need to be removed (the egg is the white spot that looks like a grain of rice in the middle of the dark area).

USDA Forest Service Smokejumpers use their tree climbing skills to help USDA APHIS detect trees infested with Asian Longhorned Beetles on the golf course at the Worcester Country Club in Worcester, Massachusetts.

USDA Forest Service Smokejumpers use their tree climbing skills to help USDA APHIS detect trees infested with Asian Longhorned Beetles on the golf course at the Worcester Country Club in Worcester, Massachusetts.

2 Responses to “Smokejumpers as “Beetle Busters””

  1. Bambi L Anderson says:

    Thank You for the work to help combat the Asian longhorned beetle, and the article. I work for NRCS and am also a female Climbing Arborist. I was a touch concerned for the safety of Ms. Springer having her hair exposed to her ropes, I as Ms. Springer had my hair in braids this last year when working, and had to be cut out of my equipment. I had many stiches in my head as the pulling ripped open my skin, please forward if you can to Ms. Springer. When working professionals (as Ms. Springer is), take great care for safety but we all can re-afferm the basics. Thank You B. Anderson

  2. Frank Carroll says:

    Good job, Jen – this is such a great story. I had not thoght about the braids deal but the smokejumpers hanging like ornaments on Christmas trees is a pretty cool shot and the story is so important.

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