Public Concern About Invasive Tree Killing Insects and Diseases Remains Strong

Dec 08, 2010, 13:00 ET from The Nature Conservancy

Poll results indicate most Americans are concerned about non-native forest pests and they support measures to stop their spread

ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 8, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Most Americans live near trees, and consider them very important to their quality of life. Recent polling by The Nature Conservancy shows that the American public is well aware of invasive forest pests that kill trees, and are willing to take steps to protect trees from this threat. According to the poll, conducted in September, knowledge of the spread of forest pests such as the Asian longhorned beetle and emerald ash borer, and of diseases like sudden oak death and thousand cankers disease, has increased by 13 percent, from 41 percent in 2005 to 54 percent in 2010. When asked about the issue of forest pests in the most general terms, 93 percent of poll respondents expressed concern. This high level of concern has not changed since 2005, despite the changing economic situation.

The poll results show that 95 percent of Americans see trees as an important part of where they live and integral to their quality of life. Seventy-seven percent of respondents live near a wooded area, and 92 percent have trees on the property where they live. Americans also engage in a variety of activities that bring them in close contact with trees, with the top three activities being gardening (81%), birding or viewing wildlife (69%), and hiking (59%).

"The poll results tell us that the public's awareness of and concern about these invasive diseases and insects continue to increase, which is critical because it is usually citizens noticing something in their yard or nearby park that leads authorities to find new infestations of invasive bugs and diseases," said Sarah Volkman, communications coordinator for the Forest Health Program of The Nature Conservancy. "Additionally, we are very excited to see that Americans continue to feel very connected to trees, and are willing to take a number of actions to prevent the spread of these invasive pests."

Poll respondents said they were willing to take a number of potential actions to reduce movement of forest pests:

  • Buying plants and trees only from nurseries that are certified as free from diseases and insects that kill trees (92%)
  • Not taking plants or cuttings from another location to bring back to their homes or gardens (88%)
  • Cleaning boots carefully after hiking in a forest (87%)
  • Not taking firewood with them when they camp (80%)

Poll respondents also supported a number of suggested government actions to reduce introductions and spread of forest pests, with 82 percent in favor of policy measures that would limit trade with certain countries and 85 percent in support of government incentives for nurseries to adopt measures to prevent introduction and spread of pests.

While the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been working to strengthen regulations governing international trade in the types of plants that can introduce damaging pests, key components of the new regulations have not yet received final approval.  

"Improving the existing government regulations will certainly help turn back the tidal wave of new invasive pests entering the United States," said Faith Campbell, Senior Policy Representative for The Nature Conservancy.  "These regulations, combined with the actions of an informed and concerned public, can potentially save millions of trees across the country."

The Nature Conservancy conducted this poll as part of its ongoing efforts on behalf of the Continental Dialogue on Non-Native Forest Insects and Diseases, a group of concerned organizations and individuals that work together to abate the threat to North American forests from tree-killing insects and diseases. The polling was designed to inform future messages and outreach to best serve the public's needs for information and education. Similar polling was conducted by The Nature Conservancy in 2005 and 2007.

Poll methodology: Telephone survey of 1,400 American voters conducted in September 2010, with an overall margin of sampling error of +/- 3.5 percent. Previous polls in 2007 and 2005 with the same methodology are used for comparisons over time.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 18 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 117 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. For more information, please visit

The Continental Dialogue on Non-Native Forest Insects and Diseases is a group of organizations and individuals that cultivates and catalyzes collaborative action among diverse interests to abate the threat to North American forests from non-native insects and diseases. For more information, please visit

SOURCE The Nature Conservancy