SPRINGVALE — Maine’s forests are quiet right now, but as the weather warms a quarantine to stop the movement of an invasive and destructive forest pest could be expanded.

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry used a quarantine in 2018 to contain the emerald ash borer and prevent the pest’s movement in firewood, ash logs, ash wood products and other products from northern Aroostook and York counties. The state says the quarantine is needed to protect Maine’s forests and landscape tree resources.

The ash borer was first detected in Michigan in 2002, prompting a federal quarantine in 2003 to restrict movement of potentially infested material. Native to Asia, it’s thought to have arrived in the United States in solid-wood packing material.

It has now been found in 35 states and four Canadian provinces, and has cost municipalities, property owners, nursery operators and forest products industries hundreds of millions of dollars because ash trees infested with ash borers typically die within two to three years.

Officials said it is likely all of York County will be included in future state and federal quarantines. The quarantine was first issued in August after the beetle was found in the Aroostook County towns of Frenchville, Grand Isle and Madawaska. It was extended in September to include the York County towns of Acton, Berwick, Lebanon and Shapleigh.

Although accounting for just 4 percent of Maine’s hardwood forest resources, ash trees fill an important cultural and economic niche in Maine.

Ash is used to make baseball bats, snowshoes, furniture, canoe paddles and other products in Maine, and the state’s ash forests have an estimated overall commercial value of $320 million. Maine’s Indian tribes also have used ash for untold generations to weave baskets, for the thwarts and gunwales of birch-bark canoes and in other tribal crafts.

State officials say the detection of emerald ash borer in York County will impact individual landowners, communities, and the wood industry in numerous ways, including a prohibition on moving firewood from the order area. In addition, woodlot owners, foresters, and loggers involved in ash harvests will see a change in markets and the loss of a valuable timber species, and a rapid decline in ash trees may threaten infrastructure and public safety.

Representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry will explain why an expanded quarantine is necessary at a public hearing at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Office in Springvale at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 13. There also will be another public hearing at the Maine Forest Service Office in Ashland on Feb. 11.

More information on this pest in Maine can be found at www.maine.gov.

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension Office in York County is at 15 Oak St. in Springvale.

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