Rep. Courtney Surveys Damage Caused by Gypsy Moths in Pachaug Forest
NORWICH, CT – Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) joined Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) representatives Christopher Martin (Director of Forestry) and Daniel Evans (State Lands Forester) for a tour of damage caused by gypsy moths in the Pachaug Forest. Rep. Courtney was also joined by Thomas Worthley, a forestry researcher with the University of Connecticut’s Extension Service, “Friends of Pachaug Forest” representative Sharon Viadella, and Tom Morgart, a representative from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The party surveyed damage that includes a widespread defoliation and a glut of dead and severely compromised trees throughout the Pachaug Forest.
On their tour, Rep. Courtney discussed new approaches to help address the gypsy moth outbreak at the federal level. Courtney has supported efforts by Connecticut DEEP to secure federal funding through the NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which would make funds available to private agricultural producers throughout state and private forests for help in the costly clearing of dead and dying trees. Congressman Courtney also discussed his support for forest management through the utilization of biomass power, and for removing barriers that prevent biomass and waste-to-energy pathways from receiving the same level of support as other forms of energy under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
“After meeting with NRCS in Washington to outline the challenges we’re facing in the Pachaug Forest, it was beneficial to meet with Connecticut-based NRCS staff and their partners in academia to survey the damage up close” said Congressman Courtney. “There’s no doubt that federal initiatives like the NRCS’s Environmental Quality Investment Program could provide private foresters throughout the region with additional resources to curb the high cost of clearing away dead and dying trees, and DEEP has my full support in their application for those resources.
“Congress also has a chance to help private citizens and our region as a whole to find a way to benefit from this spike in tree mortality by expanding the uses for biomass within the federal Renewable Fuel Standard. There is a goldmine of viable biomass to be found in the dead wood littered throughout the Pachaug Forest as a result of gypsy moth damage. Clearing out the dead trees and converting them into usable energy would be a win for everyone involved. As a carbon-neutral source of energy, biomass is a clean energy alternative that Connecticut should be taking full advantage of, and I’m working with a bipartisan group in Congress to expand the definition of biomass within the Renewable Fuel Standard so that we can put those resources to work.”
The gypsy moth is an invasive insect species that has been present in Connecticut since 1905. Gypsy moth caterpillars consume foliage and will feed on most species of trees, although they are predominantly a pest among oaks. Connecticut has experienced previous major outbreaks of gypsy moths: in 1981, 1.5 million acres of forest were defoliated due to gypsy moth caterpillar damage. In 2017, nearly 1.2 million acres of forest lands were found to have been defoliated by gypsy moth caterpillars, the greatest extent of damage since the 1981 outbreak.
Congressman Courtney has long been a proponent of utilizing biomass power, and a supporter of Connecticut’s primary biomass power generator, Greenleaf Power. Congressman Courtney has visited Greenleaf Power’s facilities in Plainfield, CT on multiple occasions, most recently in the Fall of 2017. In April, Congressman Courtney met with Greenleaf Power CEO Kevin Siebrecht in Washington to discuss efforts to expand the uses for biomass within the federal RFS.