- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 30, 2006

ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) — A tiny green beetle that decimates ash trees is nibbling away at traditional summer campfires as states try to halt the insect’s spread through infested firewood that campers unwittingly haul into parks.

Indiana, Ohio and Michigan — where the emerald ash borer has been located — have imposed tough rules on bringing wood into parks.

Wisconsin and South Dakota have banned out-of-state firewood outright, and other states are keeping a wary eye on the bug, which has killed nearly 20 million North American ash trees in the three infested states and southern Ontario.

The iridescent green beetle was found in Michigan in 2002. Specialists say it likely hitched a ride years earlier from Asia in wooden packing crates. Campers, hunters and city dwellers heading off to cottages for weekend excursions have spread them rapidly by bringing their own firewood along for outings.

“It’s almost done unconsciously when you go camping — you pack your cooler and your tent and your firewood and you head out,” said Sharon Lucik, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service in Brighton, Mich.

Because the ash borer’s native range is in Asia, it has no natural predators in North America. Trees can be treated annually with chemicals to kill the larvae, but that isn’t an economical option for vast forest expanses, tree-lined streets and suburban yards, Miss Lucik said.

She said the federal agency’s goal is for states to keep ash borer populations confined to infested areas so the beetle will be easier to combat if an effective form of control is found.

The beetle doesn’t just threaten ash trees — a wide-ranging species valued for fast growth, shade and fall foliage in the wilderness. They threaten the entire ash wood industry. Ash wood, strong and light in color, is used in furniture and baseball bats, generating about $200 million annually, according to the American Forest & Paper Association.

In Indiana, the half-inch-long beetle has spread to seven counties since it was found in a campground in April 2004. This spring, the state banned campers from bringing firewood from those counties, as well as quarantined counties in Ohio and Michigan, into the state’s 24 parks, nine reservoirs and various recreation areas.

Under the policy, park officials seize and burn wood if it’s from one of the counties. Campers can buy borer-free wood at a park’s supply store for $4 to $5.

Joe McGuinness and his father-in-law, Dan Greene, of Franklin, Ind., got a sense of the new rule recently at the 290-acre Mounds State Park in central Indiana.

The gate attendant quizzed them about the firewood they had hauled with them. Mr. McGuinness reassured her it came from a tree a storm knocked down in his parents’ yard just south of Indianapolis, not from a quarantined county.

Mr. McGuinness said later he wouldn’t mind if campers were banned from bringing any firewood into parks to halt the beetle’s spread.

“Of course, it would cost a little bit if you had to buy it at the camp store, but it would be worth it to protect the trees,” he said. “This is such a pretty place.”

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