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Commissioners ask MDA to not enact gypsy moth quarantine

Rhonda Silence


After the Minnesota Department of Agriculture public hearing on Tuesday, February 25 on the proposal to institute a quarantine of Cook and Lake counties, Mary Perala of Boise Paper and Jeff Johanson of Hedstrom Lumber Company talked about the impact the quarantine could have on the timber industry. 
Staff photo/Rhonda Silence After the Minnesota Department of Agriculture public hearing on Tuesday, February 25 on the proposal to institute a quarantine of Cook and Lake counties, Mary Perala of Boise Paper and Jeff Johanson of Hedstrom Lumber Company talked about the impact the quarantine could have on the timber industry. Staff photo/Rhonda Silence The Cook County commissioners room was crowded on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 as about 35 community members gathered to learn more about a proposed Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) quarantine of Cook and Lake counties in the effort to slow the spread of the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar dispar).

Lucia Hunt, gypsy moth unit supervisor and Alan Sommerfeld, senior communications officer for the MDA, gave the presentation, which many North Shore residents have heard before, describing the impact of the gypsy moth as a nuisance pest and landscape defoliator. Hunt said that currently, 800,000 acres are deforested nationwide by the pests.

Hunt noted that guidelines for international, regional and state trade have been in place for decades and quarantines are a tool to regulate trade. She said the goal is to slow the spread of the gypsy moth, noting that MDA knows they cannot stop the advancement of the insect forever.

Hunt talked about the history of gypsy moth trapping and treatment in Cook and Lake counties. She said about $3.5 million had been spent on those activities and added, “If we hadn’t done these treatments, we’d be having this discussion far earlier.”

Hunt said regulated articles include logs, pulpwood, bark products, trees and woody shrubs with roots (nursery stock) and trees without roots [Christmas Trees], mobile homes and any other articles that may spread gypsy moths to non-infested areas.

Regarding the compliance agreements that will have to be established for individuals and businesses who wish to transport these regulated items, Hunt said, “It’s not fair to say, ‘build a wall and nothing can come out.’ That’s not reasonable. The idea is that these articles can move, but they need some kind of mitigation to make sure the gypsy moth is not moved with them.”

Movement within Cook and Lake counties is not restricted at all, Hunt said, and for moving saw logs and pulpwood out of the quarantined area, it is a matter of “leaving a paper trail.”

Hunt said mitigation consists of A) visual inspection; B) treatment (heat or chemical applications; C) transportation (moving items directly to destination); D) storage (storing items 100 feet from host vegetation); and E) processing (within five days during the “high-risk” period of May – June).

A number of citizens took advantage of the MDA request for comments. Former Cook County Commissioner and longtime logger Jim Hall pointed out that the gypsy moth is already well established in Wisconsin. “They’re marching right into Minnesota,” said Hall, “If you’re going to quarantine Cook and Lake counties, you need to do it for the entire region.”

Hall also said the potential fines for anyone found transporting gypsy moths is unfair. He asked if it was true the fine was up to $7,500 and Hunt said yes, the potential fine could be $500 per day.

Hall noted that he had traveled in the east and asked, “Why are there still forests in Massachusetts and the east coast left, if they are so terrible?”

Wayne Anderson spoke, noting that he was a lifelong resident and had worked as a logger, a trucker and a lumber producer. He said to put another layer of bureaucracy on Cook County loggers would be extremely detrimental. He said logging is vital to the forest health of this region, adding that wildfires are a grave concern that is mitigated by logging.

“I commend the department for trying to control the gypsy moth, but I think the quarantine is misguided,” said Anderson, noting that the moths are moving on their own. If anything, said Anderson, instead of trying to stop moving the egg clusters to the lumber mills where there is no food source for the caterpillars, the department should be trying to move them there. “Haul them to the paper mill in the barren wood lot. Let them starve there!” he said emphatically.

Grand Marais logger Victor Bohnen asked for clarification. He asked if he heard correctly that 800,000 acres were deforested nationwide by the advancement of the gypsy moth. Hunt said that is correct and Bohnen said that seems relatively small, considering the potential economic hardship to Cook County.

Mary Perala, a representative of Boise Paper in Koochiching County said her company is very concerned about how county-to-county transport will impact loggers. Perala echoed Bohnen’s comment on the 800,000 acres impacted by gypsy moths. Perala asked how many acres are impacted by the Forest Tent Caterpillar every few years.

Perala said her company’s primary concern is the requirement to have restricted items processed within five days during the “high risk” period of May and June. She said 70 percent of Boise’s product is harvested in winter and stockpiled. She said she didn’t know how Boise would meet that requirement. Perala said, “We would hate to have to exclude wood from Cook and Lake counties.”

However, Perala said earlier this year Boise shut down some of its equipment and laid off 265 employees. “Our mill is struggling...Please consider that,” said Perala.

Jeff Johanson of Hedstrom Lumber said the quarantine may look like a “good deal” for the 100-year-old lumber mill, however only 10-15 percent of the wood harvested in Cook County is suitable for the local mill. Loggers need to be able to take their wood products where they can be sold, noting that Hedstrom Lumber needs loggers to be successful.

Johanson asked the MDA representatives if gypsy moths had been found to be reproducing in St. Louis County. The answer was affirmative and Johanson said this would have a greater impact on the larger mills like Boise Paper and Sappi Fine Paper. “Our contention is the moth is here. It’s going to spread. We’re really looking at putting an undue hardship on loggers and it won’t really be effective,” said Johanson.

Grand Marais logger Kent Anderson spoke, reading the steps of compliance for loggers and wood product transporters. Anderson commended the MDA for its efforts, but said the plan is “unacceptable.” Anderson said, “There are up to 800 sticks on one load of wood. Someone has to pull them apart to look at them—they won’t do that.”

County commissioners seemed sympathetic to the logging industry representatives. Commissioner Bruce Martinson said it seems that the “cat seems to be out of the bag” and there is no stopping the gypsy moths.

Commissioner Garry Gamble said he had talked to some noted entomologists about gypsy moths and had been told that the pests would never ravage Cook and Lake counties, basically because the climate is not suitable for them. “We’ve watched this…I’m in agreement with the comments that have been made…it isn’t working,” said Gamble.

Gamble presented a potential resolution stating the county’s opposition to the proposed quarantine. Commissioner Martinson seconded the motion to enact the resolution which lists, as some reasons for the opposition: 1) that the gypsy moth has been in the United States for over half the span of our country’s existence: 145 years; 2) that gypsy moth outbreaks are associated with the presence of oak forests, of which Cook and Lake county forests consist of zero percent oak and in the Superior National Forest’s 2004 Forest Plan is projected to remain that way for 100 years; 3) that biological control methods and their influence in natural processes may be our best hope against the gypsy moth in the future; 4) that northern Minnesota has a humid continental climate that is conducive in enabling the spread and development of a natural occurring larval fungus that has proved to help keep gypsy moth populations in check as well as contribute to their collapse; and 5) that Cook and Lake county’s winter temperatures are too cold for the gypsy moth to establish themselves in significant numbers.

The resolution also stated that the larvae or moths do not pose a credible threat to human health and that the consequence of a government-imposed quarantine would impose highly disruptive regulations to Cook and Lake county’s $20 to $50 million forest industry and would serve as a deterrent to the region’s $85 million tourist industry.

The motion passed unanimously and will be submitted to the MDA. Anyone wishing to comment on the proposed gypsy moth quarantine has until March 12 to do so. Comments may be sent to: to gypsy.moth@state. mn.us or written comments can be mailed to: Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Gypsy Moth Quarantine Comments, 625 Robert St. N., St. Paul, MN 55155.


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