Grey Foxes and Emerald Ash Borers

L.E.A.F.s rustling in the Bluegrass @ Grey Fox

by Sean Mahoney


Every summer, four thousand wayward travelers descend upon the pristine hayfields at the Walsh Farm in Oak Hill, NY to the Greyfox Bluegrass festival. Sounds of banjo and fiddle can be heard around nearly every campsite, and even a hoot and a holler from the dance stage.


Hanging out at the festival for four days is awesome enough, but on Friday morning after the rains lifted off the fields, something even more amazing than the actual festival happened; we were greeted by fresh outreach reinforcements courtesy of the Nature Conservancy’s LEAF program.


That day, Natalie and I had the pleasure of working with Bless, Gerardo, Mike, and their summer mentor Jim who were spending a month long internship learning and working alongside Conservancy staff in the western Massachusetts.


After getting acquainted with some of the quirks of folk life, including banjos, small children busking for change with scratchy covers of “She’ll be Comin’ Round the Mountain” and “Sally Goodin”, flowing tie-dyed pants, men in kilts, and the infamous caravans of VW busses, we were able to convince Bless and Jim to get in the festival spirit by putting on the emerald ash borer costume.

At first they were a little nervous about spreading the Don’t Move Firewood message, but soon enough it was hard  to keep them supplied with materials to hand out because they were moving in full swing and talking to nearly everyone that passed by. Ready with extra Frisbees in hand, Mike was ready to get the message out to campers of all ages.


Thanks to the help of the entire LEAF crew, we were able to reach over 2,400 people with the message that transporting firewood can be dangerous to the health of the forests and trees.  It was welcome change to have our outreach team nearly triple in size- I wish we could keep them for all of our future festivals lined up this summer! Natalie and I really missed their energy and humor on the road to Newport Folk Festival the following weekend.


So here’s a final message to the LEAF crew: Enjoy the rest of the summer guys, and keep an eye out for Asian longhorned beetle and emerald ash borer when you return home to Boston.