Maine Agricultural and Forestry Leaders Commit to Slowing the spread of Emerald Ash Borer as USDA Announces Plans to Roll Back Regulations

January 6, 2021

For more information contact: Jim Britt at jim.britt@maine.gov

AUGUSTA -- The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) has announced that it will employ an Emergency Order under Maine State Forester Patty Cormier's authority to continue emerald ash borer (EAB) regulation in the state. This decision follows the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announcement of plans to deregulate EAB effective January 14, 2021. EAB poses a significant threat to Maine's approximately 480 million ash trees. DACF officials maintain they are slowing EAB's impact through quarantines that limit the movement of ash out of infested areas. Although the spread of EAB across the state is inevitable, slowing EAB's spread will continue to allow for adaptation while maintaining viable wood product markets and ecosystem values. A slower spread of EAB will also allow for public utilities, the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT), and cities and towns to better control ash tree management costs, necessary to protect infrastructure and public safety.

As USDA APHIS deregulation takes effect, the Emergency Order will maintain prohibitions on importing ash into Maine. Simultaneously, a revision of existing Maine state EAB quarantine rules will be determined through a public review process. Through this revision process, DACF will propose regulating ash's movement into Maine from other infested states and provinces and maintaining the in-state movement restrictions while removing chipped ash material from the list of regulated articles. (Stakeholders interested in receiving information about revised EAB rules, including public hearings, comment deadlines, and the outcome, are encouraged to use the DACF news service and sign up for EAB bulletins.)

"We remain committed to slowing the spread of EAB through quarantine, education, biological control, and advocacy for careful ash management," stated DACF Commissioner Amanda Beal. "For each of these efforts, the most important aspect is every individual doing their part to safeguard our natural and cultural resources."

"When and if we no longer can get ash, it could mean the end of our business," explained Rodney Buswell, Sr., owner of Peavey Manufacturing. "I am sorry that the federal government has decided not to continue with help, but hope that at the state level, they'll keep working to contain this as long as possible."

"This is not the time to throw in the towel on the EAB quarantine in Maine. Maine Woodland Owner members and landowners like them are among the people who will be most impacted by the faster spread of emerald ash borer if a quarantine on the pest is not continued," said Executive Director of Maine Woodland Owners Tom Doak. "I recognize a quarantine does not prevent the spread of this pest, but it does slow it down. With the time bought, ash already on woodlots will increase in value, and landowners will have more options for management before the insect arrives."

"I believe the federal deregulation taking place next month is premature given the large areas within Maine with no current detections of EAB," said Dr. John Daigle, University of Maine Professor of Forest Recreation Management. "Time is of the essence to test and implement different strategies to reduce the rate of spread of EAB as well as to determine best practices in protecting ash trees in Maine and sustaining ash in our landscape for cultural and ecological reasons."

Since 2009, the University of Maine has worked to bring Wabanaki basket makers, researchers, Maine DACF, and federal agencies together in an EAB-Ash Task Force. The EAB-Ash Task Force has been vital for implementing studies and sharing findings from the latest research to help prepare and respond to EAB's imminent threats and sustain Wabanaki basket makers' cultural practices with ash trees.

"Our research partnerships and engagements with Native basket-makers and harvesters here in Maine and across the northeast show that the EAB is as much a threat to the cultures and well-being of Native communities and economies as it is a threat to trees," explained Dr. Darren Ranco, Chair of Native American Programs at the University of Maine, and Founding Member of the EAB Ash Task Force. "Deregulation would severely limit the opportunities and methods we collectively have to minimize these harms on Native economic and cultural issues."

"Around six percent of the trees in Bath's Tree Inventory are ash, with even more on private properties and in forested areas. A city-wide infestation of EAB will significantly impact our green infrastructure," explained Kyle Rosenberg, Bath City Arborist. "In one year, a 10-inch diameter ash tree deflects over 1000 gallons of stormwater run-off, helps conserve 65 kilowatts of energy due to reduced use of heating and cooling systems, sequesters over 250 pounds of carbon from the atmosphere and adds to the overall appeal and sense of place Bath residents and visitors have come to enjoy."

"Roadways often are corridors for the movement of invasive plants and animals. The State of Maine will require federal support and funding to continue this battle at the state level. Dead ash along highways may present undue risk. Removals and mapping of existing ash may increase our costs," stated Robert Moosmann, MaineDOT Statewide Vegetation Manager. "I encourage the USDA to continue to help. We will need their assistance and expertise as we continue our response to EAB."

Since 2002, when EAB was first discovered in the United States in Michigan, USDA APHIS has sought to limit the insect's spread using quarantines, permits, and compliance agreements that regulated the movement of wood, which may contain the insect. DACF will propose rules to continue this approach to slow the spread while also working to mitigate impacts in the state's already infested areas. An announcement regarding the public hearings and comment period will take place early in 2021.

Everyone Can Help Slow EAB

  • Learn to recognize emerald ash borer attacks.
  • If you suspect you have seen emerald ash borer or evidence of its attack on trees in Maine, please report it.
  • Follow best management practices and quarantine rules when handling ash.
  • Spread the word, not the bugs: Use local or heat-treated firewood!

For more information on emerald ash borer in Maine, visit https://maine.gov/eab.

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