An invasive insect called the Emerald Ash Borer is spreading. It has already killed millions of trees in Michigan and Ontario, and the bug is continuing to spread into parts of Indiana and Ohio. Now, a team of scientists in Ohio has endorsed a new plan to counter the ash borer’s attack. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bill Cohen reports:
An invasive insect called the Emerald Ash Borer is spreading. It has already killed millions of
trees in Michigan and Ontario, and the bug is continuing to spread into parts of Indiana and Ohio.
Now, a team of scientists in Ohio has endorsed a new plan to counter the ash borer’s attack. The
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bill Cohen reports:
Some ash trees in northwest Ohio have been infected with the ash borers… so the scientists are
supporting a plan by agriculture officials to order that ALL ash trees within a half mile radius of
the stricken trees be chopped down. Ohio insect expert Dan Herms is on the scientific panel
that’s urging quick action…
“12 million ash trees have already died in southeast Michigan, and so all these ash trees in Toledo
are inevitably doomed anyway. So the key is to try to get in front of this to prevent it from
spreading into the rest of Ohio and ultimately the rest of North America.”
Herms expects Ohio’s cut-down project to begin this winter. He notes ash trees are valuable as
timber… with Ohio’s crop having an estimated worth of one billion dollars.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Bill Cohen in Columbus.
Farm museums like this one are sometimes the only remnant of the agricultural life that has been overrun by development. However, some communities are buying farmers' development rights in an effort to save the rural landscape. (Photo by Lester Graham)
One way to keep farms from becoming subdivisions is to pay the farmers to never build on their land. This has been happening on the east and west coasts for decades. But it’s just now beginning to catch on in the Great Lakes region. In the second of a two part series on farmers and the decisions they make about their land, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Peter Payette takes us to a place where local government is paying to keep land in agriculture:
One way to keep farms from becoming subdivisions is to pay the farmers to never
build on their land. This has been happening on the east and west coasts for
decades. But it’s just now beginning to catch on in the Great Lakes region. In
the second of a two part series on farmers and the decisions they make about
their land, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Peter Payette takes us to a place
where local government is paying to keep land in agriculture:
Whitney Lyon’s farm has been in his family for more than a century. He has 100
acres of cherry and apple trees. The orchards are on a peninsula that stretches
fourteen miles across a bay in Northern Lake Michigan. His farm is about a half
mile from the clear blue water that attracts thousands of tourists here every
Lyon says real estate agents love his property.
“We run clean back to the bay on the north side… that’s view property. It’s
worth 30, 40,000 bucks an acre.”
But it’s not worth that much anymore. The rights to build houses on the Lyon farm have
been sold. The way this works is this: the Lyon’s keep the land, but they get paid
for the real estate value they give up to keep the land as a farm instead of house
(sound of apple picking)
There’s a thick fog across the peninsula today. Whitney Lyon is picking apples. His
wife Mary is inside watching kids. Mary says the day they sold the development
rights was the best day in their thirty years of farm life. She says she knew they’d
be able to stay on the land. And because of the money they made, she downsized her
“The big change, especially the last two or three years, I no longer just buy stuff
from just garage sales. I have actually been spending money on purchasing things for
the house. Which previously, everything came from garage sales.”
Many of the Lyon’s neighbors have sold their development rights as well. For ten
years, the township government has raised money to buy those rights with an additional
property tax. Almost no other community in the Midwest has a program like this. But,
if approved by voters, five more townships in this area might also start programs after
the November elections. Each township is separately asking voters to approve a property tax.
The American Farmland Trust has helped the townships design the program. The group is
excited because this would provide an example of local governments joining together to
protect farmland. Farmland Trust’s President Ralph Grossie flew in for a campaign event.
In a speech, Grossie told a crowd of about 100 people there’s a disconnect between farmers
and their communities. He says the community benefits from the farms while the farmers
struggle to make ends meet.
“We believe there is a middle ground here, there is a way to strike a deal between those
who manage our landscape – private farmers and ranchers, landowners – and those who
appreciate and benefit from that well-managed landscape. If you think about it, that’s
the heart of the property rights debate. Almost all those conflicts over property rights
are really about who pays for achieving a public goal on private land.”
Grossie says paying farmers with public money is the best option if a community wants to
keep farms. Otherwise, he says government forces farmers to pay when they give up profitable
uses of their land because of zoning laws. But a few in this crowd weren’t buying.
Some are opposed to more taxes on their homes or businesses so the township government can
write big checks to farmers. Others question if younger generations even want to farm.
(sound of noise from crowd)
And some are just plain suspicious of government. Roger Booth is talking to another
opponent of the propposal after the speech. Booth is explaining that when the right
to develop a piece of land is purchased, it’s gone forever. But he points out there
is one exception.
“Eminent domain. And who’s going to decide eminent domain has the right to take it? The
people in power of government at the time. Not today. Thirty years from now.”
Government also has an image problem because prominent local farmers often sit on the
town boards. It’s hard not to notice they could be the ones cashing in on the public treasury.
Critics also point out these programs tax farms to save farmland. And they say buying the
deveolopment rights does nothing to improve the business of farming. Supporters admit this
doesn’t guarantee future success for farms. But they say at least it gives the farmers a
chance to keep farming instead of selling to developers.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Peter Payette.
Although a well-manicured lawn offers certain benefits... not everyone thinks it's worth the effort. (Photo by Ed Herrmann)
Some people still prefer a more natural look. (Photo by Ed
One of the great rituals in suburban America is mowing the lawn. A manicured lawn seems to say that the house is well cared for, that it belongs to the neighborhood. Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Ed Herrmann wonders whether this obsession for the perfect lawn is worth the effort:
One of the great rituals in suburban America is mowing the lawn. A
manicured lawn seems to say that the house is well cared for, that it belongs
to the neighborhood. Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Ed
Herrmann wonders whether this obsession with the perfect lawn is worth the
(sound of evening insects)
It’s a late summer evening and at last I can go outside and enjoy the
sounds of the neighborhood. There’s a little breeze, the air is cooler. The
chorus of insects is soothing, gentle but insistent, an ancient throbbing
resonance. Much better than during the day…
(roar of lawn machines)
Summer days in the suburbs are the time of assault, when people attack their
lawns with powerful weapons from the chemical and manufacturing
industries. Anyone who uses the words “quiet” and “suburbs” in the same
sentence has never been to a suburb, at least not in summer.
It takes a lot of noise to maintain a lawn. Besides the mower, you’ve got edgers, trimmers,
leaf blowers, weed whackers, core aerators, little tractors, big tractors, slitting
machines. I don’t know whatever happened to rakes and hand clippers. One
thing’s for sure. This quest for lawn perfection wouldn’t be possible without
the industrial revolution.
So where did we get the idea that a house should be surrounded by a field of
uniform grass kept at the same height?
Well, with apologies to the Queen, I’m afraid we must blame the British. It
seems that, along with our language, our imperial ambitions and our
ambivalent morals, America also gets its notion of what a lawn should look
like from the English. Of course, the estates of the English aristocracy were
tended by a staff of gardeners. England also has a milder climate, and the
grass that looks so nice there doesn’t do as well in North America. In the
1930’s the USDA came up with a blend of imported grasses that would
tolerate our climate. Since these grasses are not native, they need help, and
that calls for fertilizers, pesticides and lots of extra water. Since normal
people can’t afford gardeners who trim by hand, that means lawn machines.
American industry to the rescue.
(mower starts up, fades under next sentence)
A quick Google tells me that today we have 40 million lawn mowers in use.
Each emits 11 times the pollution of a new car, and lawn mowers contribute
five percent of the nation’s air pollution. Plus more than 70 million pounds of
pesticides are used each year and over half of our residential water is used
for landscaping. Don’t you love those automatic sprinklers that come on in the
rain? Add to that all the time that people spend mowing and edging. Of
course the two billion dollar lawn care industry is thrilled about all this
enthusiasm, but I gotta ask, “Is it worth it?”
Call me old fashioned, but I actually prefer the looks of a meadow with mixed
wildflowers and grasses to the lawn that looks like a pool table. My own lawn
is somewhere between. It’s mowed, but it’s what you might call multicultural.
There are at least five different kinds of grass with different colors and
thicknesses, plus clover, dandelions, mushrooms, a few pinecones, and a
rabbit hole or two. There’s also some kind of nasty weed with thorns, but even
that has nice purple flowers if it gets big enough.
Clover, by the way, used to be added to grass seed because it adds nitrogen to
the soil. Now we just buy a bag of nitrogen fertilizer, so who needs clover?
And what’s wrong with
dandelions? You can eat them, some people even make wine out of them,
they have happy yellow flowers; yet to most people they indicate your yard is
out of control. So I’m down on my hands and knees pulling dandelions. I’m
not sure why, but I hope it keeps the neighbors happy.
One thing I won’t give in to, though, is the chemical spraying trucks, painted
green of course, that roll through the neighborhood.
I can only hold my breath. (sound of trucks and mowers) Try not to listen. And
wait for the evening. (evening insects)
(air conditioner starts up)
Although, with all these air conditioners, even the night’s not too quiet.
But that’s another story.
Host tag: “Ed Herrmann is an outdoor enthusiast living in the
suburbs of Detroit.”