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Train This Spring to Become a Forest Pest First Detector

Burlington--Volunteers are needed to help monitor trees in their local communities for the first signs of the Asian longhorned beetle, emerald ash borer and hemlock woolly adelgid. Once introduced to an area, these pests invade quickly, causing devastating damage to forests.

That's why early detection is so vital, and why this spring Vermont's Forest Pest First Detector Program, a partnership between University of Vermont (UVM) Extension and state and federal agencies, is offering free training for anyone interested in becoming a certified First Detector. Trained volunteers will assist with site visits and sample collection and help increase public awareness through community outreach efforts such as newspaper articles, meetings and informational displays.

To become certified, individuals must complete seven online modules prior to participating in one day of on-site classroom and field training. The latter will be offered from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on May 18 (rain date May 19) at the NorthWoods Stewardship Center, East Charleston, and June 8 (rain date June 9) at Merck Forest and Farmland Center, Rupert.

To register or to request a disability-related accommodation to participate, contact Caitlin Cusack, Forest Pest First Detector Program coordinator, at (802) 656-7746 or caitlin.cusack@uvm.edu by May 1. Continuing education credits are available for both the online and in-person training.

Instruction will be offered on pest biology, impacts and identification; survey protocol and tools and how to respond to screening calls about various pests. Certified First Detectors will receive a toolkit containing a manual, supplies for collecting samples and other tools and reference materials and will be invited to participate in other trainings and research projects. They also will be granted access to the National Plant Diagnostic Network's resources.

A commitment of at least two hours a month for a year is expected. Local federal and state agency personnel will be available for technical assistance and support, including providing regular updates on forest pests threatening Vermont's forests.

Although the emerald ash borer has been found in New York and Quebec not far from the state's borders, so far only the hemlock woolly adelgid has been reported in Vermont. Initially detected in Windham County in 2007, the insect was subsequently discovered in Bennington County by Michael Rosenthal, an Arlington resident and certified First Detector who spotted it on the underside of a hemlock branch in Pownal last summer.

Vermont's First Forest Pest Detector Program is a joint initiative between UVM Extension; the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation; the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets and U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service with funding from the U.S. Forest Service. For more information, go to www.vtinvasives.org/tree-pests/first-detectors/program.

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