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WASHINGTON STATE SUPPORTS USDA ASIAN GYPSY MOTH DECISION

 WASHINGTON STATE SUPPORTS USDA ASIAN GYPSY MOTH DECISION
 OLYMPIA, Wash., March 13 /PRNewswire/ -- Key Washington state government officials today endorsed a joint project with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to eliminate the potentially devastating Asian gypsy moth (AGM) from the Pacific Northwest, the Washington State Department of Agriculture said today.
 In Washington, D.C., yesterday, Acting Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman announced a declaration of emergency and made federal funds available to help in a $19.1 million cooperative state/federal program to eradicate the pest.
 A three-part program of exclusion, eradication and detection has been in the planning stages since the Asian strain of gypsy moth was first detected in the Northwest in late 1991. Those detections include nine moths at eight sites in Pierce and south King counties. The AGM is considered a major threat to Pacific Northwest because of the moth's voracious appetite for forest and shade tree foliage and its ability to spread widely and rapidly.
 "This new pest could be absolutely devastating to our environment and our economy," said Alan Pettibone, director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture. "It's potentially the worst insect threat we've seen in the U.S.
 "The commitment by USDA and Washington to implement the recommendations of our best scientists will let us take advantage of this window of opportunity to eliminate this insect before it becomes established," added Pettibone. He said that Washington will contribute $3.4 million to the program.
 Simply described, the three-phase program features these components:
 - Exclusion -- Keeping the AGM out if the Northwest as well as the rest of the United States. USDA is developing procedures to ensure ships that have visited eastern Russian ports do not re-introduce AGM to the United States.
 - Eradication -- Eliminating the AGM now known to exist. An Environmental Assessment has identified aerial application of B.t. (Bacillus thuringiensis), a biological insecticide commonly used by organic growers, as the preferred method to eradicate the current AGM population.
 - Detection -- Discovering if other AGM exist. An extensive trapping program is planned in western Washington to detect additional gypsy moth infestations and evaluate the eradication effort.
 The Washington State Department of Health supports the plan to spray affected areas with B.t. three times over several weeks in April and May.
 "B.t. has been studied extensively and has a strong safety record for people, pets and wildlife," said State Health Secretary Kristine M. Gebbie. "While it has not been identified as a problem with the general public or those with compromised immune systems, it would be prudent for people susceptible to infections, such as those with leukemia, AIDS or other physician-diagnosed immune deficiencies, to take certain precautions, such as staying indoors for about 30 minutes following the spraying."
 Washington State Department of Ecology Director Chuck Clarke concurred with Gebbie that the bacterium proposed for use is an environmentally sound and appropriate control for this kind of situation.
 Art Stearns, supervisor of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, said both public and private landowners in Washington have a significant stake in the success of the control project.
 "We cannot afford to let the Asian gypsy moth infest the public forests or private lands of the Pacific Northwest. These moths have the potential to destroy vast areas of forests by repeatedly defoliating the trees. Our evergreen trees are particularly at risk because they cannot withstand this kind of damage," said Stearns.
 -0- 3/13/92
 /CONTACT: Craig Weckesser of the Washington State Department of Agriculture, 206-586-8494/ CO: Washington State Department of Agriculture ST: Washington IN: SU:


LM-JH -- SE005 -- 7874 03/13/92 14:36 EST
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Date:Mar 13, 1992
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