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Mass. DCR Announces Quarantine to Halt Spread of Invasive Insect

Emerald Ash Borer
Emerald Ash Borer

The Masscahusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation announced today a bold step in preventing the spread of an invasive insect.  Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard has more…

At the DCR’s headquarters in Pittsfield Thursday morning, Commissioner Ed Lambert made an announcement on action that will be taken to control the serious threat of the invasive Emerald Ash Borer….

The Emerald Ash Borer which feeds on ash trees, was found in the Berkshire town of Dalton last August. Massachusetts is the 18th state that has detected the insect, which with no natural predators, can quickly destroy ash forests, which can cause great harm not only to the natural ecosystem but also to an area’s economy.

The quarantine restricted to Berkshire County comes after a series of public hearings involving stakeholders including wood producers and landowners, state government, the United States Department of Agricultural, and the United States Forest Service.

The quarantine order dictates that all ash nursery stock, ash lumber that has not been treated to specifications, and hardwood firewood smaller than 48” cannot be sold outside of Berkshire County, except in areas with compliance agreements.

The quarantine would not prevent the movement of ash product within Berkshire County, but as part of a public education initiative, Commissioner Lambert said that the public should be wary of any kind of wood they transport.

Regulated wood from Berkshire County will be able to move across the Western border with New York, where the wood products industry will have access to mills and treatment facilities. New York recently expanded its EAB quarantine zones to all counties abutting Berkshire County. However the wood will be restricted from traveling East, or into Connecticut and Vermont.

Peter Church, Director of Forest Stewardship from the DCR said that the infestation area of Berkshire County seems to appear centered in the Dalton/Pittsfield area, but further monitoring for the Emerald Ash Borer will continue across the state.

The DCR announced that while only 4% of Massachusetts trees are ash species, 80% are located West of the Connecticut river. Ash remains an important resource to the multi-million dollar wood products industry in Berkshire County.

In addition to education, monitoring, and outreach, the state will also create new enforcement regulations, including an up to $25,000 fine for the intentional transport of infected ash, including firewood.

Though some eradication methods may be available, Nate Siegart, a forest entomologist with the U.S. Forest Service, said that containment may be the best strategy to prevent the spread of the insect until new technology develops.

To help prevent the spread of the emerald ash borer, residents of Berkshire County and across the Commonwealth are asked to be wary and to not transport firewood.

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Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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