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Gypsy Moth Quarantine Proposed for Lake and Cook Counties

Updated: 01/23/2014 7:50 PM
Created: 01/23/2014 6:47 PM WDIO.com
By: Travis Dill
tdill@wdio.com

One of the most destructive insects in the nation, the gypsy moth, prompted a quarantine in Lake and Cook County to be enforced by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. The restriction could have major ramifications for campers and the timber industry.

MDA officials announced the proposed quarantine at the Duluth City Hall on Thursday. Firewood restrictions may cramp campers, but timber experts said it could really hurt one of the biggest industries in the Northland.

Specialists with the MDA said gypsy moths have marched across the nation from the East Coast, and over 64,000 were trapped in Lake and Cook County last year. Decades of treatment could not stop their spread according to Gypsy Moth Program Supervisor Lucia Hunt.

“The treatments were intended to slow the spread of the insect and they have been successful, however we knew a day would come when the quarantine would be necessary. So this is no surprise,” Hunt said.

She said the moth starts as a caterpillar that strips leaves from trees. Hunt said that impacts over 1 million acres a year nationwide.

However a quarantine will force local mills and paper plants to use lumber from the affect area within five days according to the Minnesota Forest Industries. Executive Vice President Wayne Brandt said that will cut deep into Northland businesses.

“Frankly the timber in quarantined areas will be worthless. Nobody will want it. When they move into St. Louis County it will be impossible for us to comply without frankly shutting down mills,” Brandt said.

He said his group is working with the MDA to mitigate those concerns, but the current restrictions are a problem because lumber is stockpiled during the winter and processed much later.

Brandt also said loggers are not the main cause of spreading the gypsy moth. The moths grow in the bark of trees, but Brandt said loggers strip most bark in the logging process. He said campers unaware of the gypsy moth infestation are the biggest issue.

“Most of these pests get moved by individuals moving firewood. That's the problem,” Brandt said.

Hunt said surveys show a large percentage of Northlanders know about the gypsy moth problem, but they will need to be more vigilant.

“We want to keep the trees green. We want to keep our tourist attractions alive,” Hunt said.

She admits a quarantine will not completely stop the gypsy moth. The question to be addressed is how will the quarantine affect residents and industries in the Northland.

There will be two public hearings to discuss those impacts. The first is at the Lake County Courthouse in Two Harbors on Feb. 11, and the second is at the Cook County Courthouse in Grand Marais on Feb. 25.

Hunt also said the frigid temperatures in the Northlander may kill some of the moths this winter, but it won't eliminate the problem.

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