To the Honorable Senator Baker.
Honorable Howard Baker, Jr.
P.O. Box 600
Huntsville, TN 37756
As you are likely aware, the hemlock trees of the South are under threat of extinction due to the introduced insect pest Hemlock wooly adelgid (commonly referred to as hwa). I had the wonderful good fortune to go hiking this summer in the Bridgestone-Firestone Wilderness and in the Virgin Falls Pocket Wilderness and in Falls Creek Falls State Park. I know that your great efforts were instrumental in the preservation of the phenomenal wilderness areas in which I hiked.
I was heartened and delighted to see that the hemlock forests in the areas where I hiked were still healthy and had not succumbed to the infestation as they have in my home state of North Carolina. The hemlock forests in two of our most beautiful national parks, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Shenandoah have been virtually wiped out by this infestation.
There are some efforts afoot to stop the spread of this plague, but time is a problem. The only sure way to save a grove once the aphids have invaded is to treat it with an insecticide called Imadacloprid, created by Bayer. Treatment kills the infestation and ensures the survival of the trees until a further application that may become necessary in five years or so.
What I am proposing would be an effort manned by volunteers to go into the remaining healthy groves along the Cumberland Plateau to treat the hemlocks against these insects and preserve them until such time as a biological agent can be established to stop hwa. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people who would be willing and happy to supply the manpower to go into Tennessee’s hemlock groves to treat them with Imadacloprid.
I would further propose that some public funds be set aside for this effort. In addition, since Imadacloprid is based on a synthesized form of nicotine, perhaps some of our tobacco companies and farmers would be willing to help fund such a drive to save our native hemlock forests. How often do the tobacco farmers or cigarette companies have occasion to promote a positive aspect of a derivation of their product?
I am not saying the Imadacloprid is without its own critics, and I am not saying that it alone is a cure-all for the problem of looming extinction of our hemlock forests. But it is a way of giving our native hemlock forests the extra time they need to avoid oblivion. For that is what they are facing without such an effort: total extinction of both the Carolina hemlock and the Eastern hemlock.
For my own part, I am only a letter carrier for the US Postal Service who happens to love the forests of my native South. However, there are very educated and qualified scientists within the Eastern Native Tree Society who would be only too happy to devote their time and efforts and knowledge to implementing a mass drive to treat the hemlock forests of the Cumberland Plateau and thus save them from destruction.
Senator Baker, thank you so much for your very valuable time. Sincerely,
James Robert Smith