Updated: 09/14/2013 3:37 PM KSTP.com By: Cassie Hart
Photo: KSTP photo files.
The discovery of the emerald ash borer in northwestern Wisconsin has led to a quarantine on transporting wood that could become an issue for Minnesota mills.
The quarantine prevents the moving of firewood out of Wisconsin's Douglas County, but it also kept the region's timber industry from transporting unprocessed ash trees through the end of the month, Minnesota Public Radio reported.
Jon Harris, the director of Douglas County's forestry department, said loggers and mills alike will be affected.
"Every level of that supply chain is going to feel a certain level of pain," he said.
Duluth officials say it's only a matter of time before the invasive insect crosses into Minnesota. Already the bugs have created problems on the other side of the St. Louis River.
The Sappi mill in Cloquet, Minn., has stopped buying Douglas County ash for now. Mill manager Gary Erickson said things are manageable under the current quarantine, but circumstances could worsen if the quarantine area is expanded.
Sappi already buys wood from several Wisconsin counties that are under quarantine for gypsy moths, another invasive pest. Erickson was concerned that Minnesota might impose gypsy-moth quarantines in Cook and Lake counties.
The ash-borer quarantine is a headache not only for buyer but for sellers as well.
Max Ericson, a logger from Minong, Wis., said he might have to start storing the timber he cuts in the summer months. Regulators restrict the movement of cut ash until Oct. 1, when the ash borer stops flying and can't spread as easily.
"When you buy a timber sale, before you start cutting, you pay money down, and you have to pay before you cut," Ericson said. "So you have the expense of having your money tied up in stumpage, tied up in your labor, and fuel for the skidders, and all that to produce that wood, and then it has to lay there for potentially four or five months."
Officials suspect the emerald ash borer hitched a ride to Superior when people transported infected firewood from central Wisconsin. That upsets loggers such as Ericson.
"The chances of loggers spreading the emerald ash borer from way down in the central part of the state clear up to Superior are slim to none," he said. "But we're the ones who are going to have to deal with the consequences in order to protect the natural resources that we do have."
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