A few minutes ago, I noticed three men dressed in winter coats and USDA uniforms (hats/vests/badges all screaming “USDA”) staring at our building. At first I thought it was some elaborate scam soon to be aired all over NY1 — like, they’ll tell me they want to inspect my meat and then steal it. (And I’d get to proudly proclaim how we have no meat in our house, nerdy part-time vegetarians that we are.)
But no. They didn’t ring the doorbell or even notice me gaping out my office window. Instead they took out tape measures and binoculars and carefully inspected the four large London plane trees that shade our building. And then they had a long discussion about the little Japanese maple currently weighed down by Christmas lights, a la Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree.
Utterly mystified, I do what I normally do when I’m confused: I went to Google, and learned that the USDA is tasked with tracking the invasive Asian Longhorned Beetle, a nasty little critter that was first discovered in Brooklyn (after hoofing it on over from China) and can take down entire healthy forests by borrowing into the trunks of hardwoods and laying their eggs there. Ick.
For whatever bureaucratic reason, it’s the U.S. Department of Agriculture that’s tasked with tracking and preventing the spread of these beetles, and not, oh, the Environmental Protection Agency. Nevermind that the trees in my front yard are not on farms or timber forests, at least it means that 1) someone is doing something to protect our nation’s trees and 2) I’m cool with my taxes being used for something like this.