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Stakeholders Concerned About Invasive Pest, Quarantine

At a public meeting in Pittsfield, a panel of state and federal officials heard comments from landowners and stakeholders in the forest products industry about how Massachusetts should protect itself from further infestation of an invasive forest pest. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports…

In the basement auditorium of Pittsfield’s public library, state and federal officials discussed the recent discovery of the Emerald Ash Borer in the Berkshire town of Dalton, ways to prevent the spread of the insect, and answered questions from a packed house of attendees.

Because the emerald ash borer was found in the Commonwealth, the Federal Government has announced a pending quarantine for Massachusetts. The quarantine would require all ash products and firewood be restricted from moving outside the designated area, among other restrictions and regulations for the transport of hardwoods. According to Patricia Douglas, of the United States Department of Agriculture, the quarantine would affect the entire Commonwealth unless the state government designates a more specific quarantine zone.

The beetle feeds almost exclusively on ash species. The panel of experts said that 80 percent of the ash trees in Massachusetts are found West of the Connecticut River, and most them are found in Berkshire County.

Concerned resident Dicken Crane, President of the Massachusetts Forest Alliance, and part owner of the Holiday Brook farm in Dalton, said that a quarantine for only Berkshire County would be unrealistic.

Options beyond a quarantine include use of pesticides to kill the beetle and methods of biological control.

Jim Kelly, Chair of the Forester’s Council of Massachusetts, part of the Massachusetts Forest Alliance, and landowner in Sheffield, warned that as the Commonwealth weighs its options, it needs to take its time to determine the absolute best possible method for containment of the dangerous pest.

Rick Indres, president of the Franklin County Beekeepers Association says that if pesticide methods are used to eradicate the beetle, it might have unintended damage to bee populations and the beekeeping industry in Massachusetts. He said that anecdotal reports from the industry after pesticide treatments were used to control the invasive Asian longhorn beetle in the Worcester area showed an impact on bee populations.

Other stakeholders expressed the need for more education about the infestation.

DCR Commissioner Ed Lambert said that he was pleased with the turnout at the meeting, and that the DCR is welcoming all comments from the public to help inform the state government on how to deal with containing the spread of the pest.

To learn more about the insect, Massachusetts residents can visit this website or call the tollfree EAB hotline at 1-866-322-4512.

The next meeting will be held tonight:

Old Sturbridge Village, Visitors Center Theater

1 Old Sturbridge Village Road, Sturbridge, MA

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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