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Bill targets firewood pests.

Byline: David Steves The Register-Guard

SALEM - One way to keep forest-ravaging insects and diseases from hitching a ride into Oregon is to make sure they don't hide out in firewood brought by out-of-state campers.

That's the idea behind a proposal that got its first hearing Monday. House Bill 2122 would give the Department of Agriculture authority to regulate out-of-state firewood. Imported wood would have to be treated, most likely with insect- and disease-killing heat. Labels on commercial firewood would have to list the source of the wood and describe its anti-pest treatment if it's from outside Oregon.

"Obviously, we're not going to have firewood police," the department's Dan Hilburn told the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

But after trying to use public education as its only tool for keeping such pests out of Oregon campgrounds, he said it will be helpful to tell people that bringing firewood from outside areas is not just a bad idea, it's also against the law.

Hilburn is the administrator who oversees the department's Insect Pest Prevention & Management program. He said Oregonians didn't need to worry a decade ago that firewood brought in from elsewhere might threaten their forests. But in recent years, such invasive species as emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle, and diseases such as sudden oak death, have been killing trees in various regions of North America.

None of them are thought to have invaded Oregon. And given the economic and environmental significance of healthy forests here, Hilburn said it is critical to keep it that way.

The threat of pest-bearing firewood hit home last year. Despite public education efforts to encourage campers to buy and burn local firewood, a Michigan man who had camped his way through Oregon was discovered in California to be using firewood from trees chopped down in his home state, Hilburn said.

The firewood was infested with emerald ash borer - a beetle native to eastern Russia and Asia that was detected in 2002 in Michigan, where it began its spread and destruction of ash trees in North America.

A year earlier, Hilburn's department began buying bundles of firewood at retail chain stores to see where they originated and whether they carried stowaway insects.

"It came from all over the place, including Canada, and all the bundles we bought had insects but one, and that was from Canada," Hilburn said.

It likely was no coincidence that the firewood from Canada was insect-free. That country requires the heat treatment of firewood.

The House panel did not take action on the bill. One member, Rep. Bob Jenson, R-Pendleton, said he was concerned that such infestations could still enter Oregon by way of imported sawlogs, which aren't subject to HB 2122. Hilburn said current inspection programs already help ward off invasive species on such large-dimension wood.
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Title Annotation:City/Region; Officials want to ensure that ruinous insects aren't inadvertently imported into the state
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Geographic Code:1U9OR
Date:Feb 8, 2011
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