DUMMERSTON -- If anyone has noticed members of Dummerston Conservation Commission driving at a snail's pace lately, they had good reason.
The commission, after receiving a $500 University of Vermont grant aimed at preparing for the emerald ash borer, undertook a painstaking survey of ash trees along main roads in Dummerston.
The resulting map showing 540 such trees is meant more as a warning than as a call to action.
"We're not thinking about the ash in the woods. We're not trying to go out and cut ash trees before they get the disease," commission member Lynn Levine said. "The issue is the safety along the roads, and what would the town be responsible for if there was an ash-borer infestation.
Levine and fellow commission member Betsy Whittaker updated Selectboard members on their work last week, which was designated for "ash tree awareness" throughout Vermont.
The concern is that the emerald ash borer, a beetle native to Asia and first discovered in the U.S. a dozen years ago, could spread to Vermont and decimate the state's ash stands. The ash borer larvae feed in the cambium between the bark and wood, eventually killing branches and trees.
Detailed information on the insect is available at www.vtinvasives.org, which declares that "white ash is one of the ten most common tree species in Vermont, so this insect will have a major impact if it becomes established in the state."
"The closest infestations are in Concord, N.H.; Dalton, Mass.; New York's Hudson Valley; and just 30 miles north of the Vermont border in Carignan, Quebec," the website says.
Levine said the ash borer "is all around us. It probably is here, but it hasn't been detected."
Conservation Commission members weren't necessarily looking for the insect at this point. Instead, they traveled by car and "drove very slowly ... so that we could get an idea of where there were concentrations of ash trees that were close to the road, (and) fairly good-sized," Whittaker said. "We ignored trees that were far from the road or down an embankment. Obviously, if they died, they weren't going to be falling on the road."
"We didn't map every road in town, but we wanted to get a good idea of where the primary stands of ash were," she added.
Whittaker and other commission members want town officials to consider the potential costs and logistics of cutting and storing large amounts of ash should there be a large-scale infestation. If that happens, a state quarantine order would prohibit the infected wood from leaving Dummerston, she said.
"We're certainly not recommending that the town start thinking about cutting down trees," Whittaker said. "But we think it's a big problem that needs to be given some thought. We're not sure what any of the answers are."
In other town business:
-- The Selectboard approved spending $52,550 on a new truck and associated equipment for the highway department. The vehicle replaces a 2007 Ford and will run on gasoline rather than diesel.
"We had budgeted $60,000 for it, so I think everything is good on this," Road Foreman Lee Chamberlin said.
-- Ellen Nam was appointed to serve on the town Recreation Board.
-- The Selectboard signed the 2014-15 lease for Dummerston Community Center.
-- The board set a special "goals work session" for 5 p.m. May 28, an hour prior to that night's regular meeting.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.