Public input sought on firewood quarantine to combat ash borer
PITTSFIELD -- The state may restrict the movement of certain wood products in an effort to prevent a tree-destroying beetle found in Dalton this summer from spreading across the state.
Tonight, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation will discuss the establishment of a quarantine area within the state in the hope of keeping the emerald ash borer at bay. The quarantine would limit the movement of firewood and other wood products under certain conditions, according to the DCR.
The state agency will seek public comment on the plan during a meeting from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Berkshire Athen aeum, corner of East Street and Wendell Avenue, in Pittsfield.
State and federal environmental officials will also answer questions and concerns about the invasive insect, which threatens the health of local forests and could impact businesses that harvest wood in the county.
"The state will likely take the input from the public and come up with guidelines to benefit the forests and those harvesting wood," said state Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, who represents Dalton in the 2nd Berkshire District.
"[The ash borer] has the potential to be very devastating," Mark added.
The DCR announced in mid-September that they found a single ash borer in late August on Kirchner Road in Dalton. The insect was caught in one of the 700 purple prism traps set in trees throughout Western Massachusetts to detect the tiny, metallic green beetle’s presence.
An infestation was detected a year ago just 40 miles over the border in New York. Massachusetts is the 18th state to find the beetle living within its borders. It was first discovered in Michigan 10 years ago, according to the DCR.
An ash borer can kill a healthy ash tree in three to five years. It lays eggs in the tree’s bark. When they hatch, the larvae that spring out feed on the wood between the bark and trunk, stopping the flow of nutrients to the rest of the tree. When the beetle hits a tree, there’s almost no saving it, state forestry officials have said.
The ash borer poses a particular threat to forests in Berkshire County, which contain 64 percent of the 45 million ash trees in the state.
Ash is valuable hardwood and the forest products industry is a $500 million a year business in the state, much of it concentrated in the Berkshires.
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