Among the oldest, most majestic trees in our forests are the hemlocks. Isolated stands of them date back 500 years or more.
For decades, hemlocks in eastern states have been under assault by an invasive species, the hemlock wooly adelgid. The tiny insect has devastated some hemlock forests, and it has made its way through much of West Virginia and into eastern Ohio.
U.S. Forest Service officials have identified 40 sites in the Monongahela National Forest for treatment of hemlocks to protect them against the adelgid. The forest, entirely in West Virginia, includes some of the state's most beautiful, naturally significant places.
Unfortunately, the cost of safeguarding hemlocks against the adelgid is high. Treatment is an expensive, ongoing project, so the entire Monongahela National Forest cannot be protected. A large number of hemlocks will be infested and killed unless a new, more practical method is found to treat the trees.
Still, the Forest Service is to be commended for doing something, after many years of federal government inactivity against the adelgid. For many years, as causes such as acid rain were blamed incorrectly for dying hemlocks, the problem was virtually ignored.
With the state of West Virginia using its limited resources to protect some hemlocks, such as those in Cathedral State Park, and private landowners sometimes using their own funds for the purpose, many beautiful, important trees may be saved. The Forest Service should expedite its new program and, if possible, find more money for it.