FRANKLIN, Tenn. – Environmental experts say there is a hidden killer that could harm the very air we breathe. The killer is microscopic and often goes unnoticed, but in time, non-native forest pests are deadly.
"The main problem is that they are not native, so we don't have native predators that can keep those populations in check and keep those insects from causing harm," said Trish Johnson with The Nature Conservancy's Tennessee chapter.
The pests are taking down trees across the United States. One particular pest called the Wooley Adelgid has spread to Hemlock trees in 17 states so far.
"Over $2 billion in expenditures have been put forth because of forest pests and pathogens, and that's an annual number," said Johnson.
Nissan is now working with The Nature Conservancy to stop the spread of these pests. The company recently donated $50,000 to help keep Tennessee, a state where Nissan employs thousands of people, green.
"Nissan has a strong environmental commitment," said Russell Vare with Nissan Corporate Planning. "Zero emission leadership, improving the fuel economy of our entire fleet, reducing our corporate carbon footprint, and increasing the amount of recycled materials in our vehicles is our focus, and we're making good progress."
The Nature Conservancy is using Nissan's donation to treat trees from the ground up with a special chemical meant to kill pests while protecting the trees. In some parts of the country, like in Tennessee, volunteer climbers are even angling to treat trees.
"We're going to be one of the main user groups that gets hurt the most when the trees are gone," said Rick Bost with East Tennessee Climbers Coalition.
Local climbers are on board because they need trees like Hemlocks to keep going to new heights.
"If the hemlocks are gone then that means the tall trees are gone and the next trees are going to go and it is just going to be very arid and not very comfortable. Climbers seek out the comfortable climbing areas so we like it in the shade," said Bost.
Nissan's donation is also being used to help educate the public about a problem they said should resonate with everyone.
"It has an economic impact, and it also has an aesthetic impact, and it really relates to our health because the trees help clean our air," said Johnson.
The biggest ways individuals can help are to point out predators both on private and public land, so they can be eradicated. People are asked to also not move firewood from one site to the next. Forest pests like Wooley Adelgid often hide in wood. When campers take logs from one site to another, they spread the predator.
"When you really look at what the environment means at the local level we think it is important to have a focus where you can actually see it. You can see the difference that's being made with The Nature Conservancy with this program," said Vare.
For more information on the work done by The Nature Conservancy visit: www.nature.org.
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