Options for Minnesota After USDA Deregulation of Emerald Ash Borer

Prepared by Minnesota Department of Agriculture, September , 2018

 

Background

Emerald ash borer has been regulated by the USDA since 2002 when it was discovered in southeastern Michigan. As of September 2018, emerald ash borer can be found in 35 of the 48 continental states (73%) and the area federally regulated for emerald ash borer includes most of the native range of ash in the U.S.

Emerald ash borer has been regulated by the MDA since 2009 when it was discovered on the Minnesota / Wisconsin border. As of September 2018, emerald ash borer can be found in only 17 of Minnesota’s 87 counties (16%) and the areas of the state that have not yet been affected by emerald ash borer include some of the densest concentration of forestland ash in North America. In addition, emerald ash borer has only been found in 63 of Minnesota’s 853 cities (7%).

 

The MDA has an active reporting system for emerald ash borer. The MDA provides EAB identification training to tree care providers and other natural resource professionals on a yearly basis. These individuals and other citizens are able to make reports of EAB through a variety of ways (mobile app, email, phone) which the MDA then follows up on to confirm or refute. All areas where EAB is confirmed are added to the MDA’s online EAB map within 24 hours. The map also uses an algorithm to buffer these finds and delineate areas as generally infested. The MDA, along with partners at the University of Minnesota and Forest Service, have also done extensive research on monitoring methods for emerald ash borer and have promoted what has been learned to communities and other stakeholders in Minnesota to encourage surveillance and reporting of EAB. The ultimate result is that Minnesota has a relatively robust surveillance system for an insect that is not easy to find at low densities.

Broadly speaking there are three options for the MDA if emerald ash borer is deregulated by the USDA.

 

Option 1: Maintain the status quo

Compared to the national scale, EAB has reached relatively little of Minnesota’s ash resource. As a result it may be in the best interest of Minnesota to maintain regulations on EAB at the state level despite the lack of federal regulation. In this scenario, the EAB quarantine as it currently exists would be maintained.

 

However, without a federal quarantine, the USDA would no longer regulate the interstate movement of EAB regulated articles, thus the MDA would need to step in to prevent the import of articles into Minnesota that could carry EAB into un-infested areas of Minnesota. The mechanism that MDA would use to do this would be an exterior quarantine which requires public notice and a comment period. The MDA currently maintains exterior quarantines related to mountain pine beetle and to thousand cankers disease of walnut.

 

The lack of a federal quarantine would also mean that USDA would discontinue survey efforts for EAB. Without a federal survey supporting EAB absence in non-quarantined areas, there is a risk that other states and countries may not recognize these areas as free from EAB and may treat all parts of Minnesota as infested with EAB. This would diminish the value of maintaining a quarantine for industries moving regulated articles from currently un-infested areas. The level of monitoring needed to reassure these entities is not known at this time.

 

Option 2: Create a new EAB regulatory program

In this scenario, the MDA would continue to regulate EAB but with changes to the current regulations. For instance, there are some changes that could provide much of the benefit of the current program but with fewer constraints on the movement of materials.

One such change could be to redefine the articles regulated for EAB. Currently, the articles regulated for emerald ash borer are:

  1. Ash logs and lumber (excluding 4 cornered dimensional lumber)
  2. Ash tree waste
  3. Ash chips and mulch
  4. All hardwood firewood (all hardwood firewood was included in federal and state regulations for EAB due to the inability of many users of firewood to discriminate between ash and other types of wood)

 

These definitions could be edited to remove “All hardwood firewood” and broaden the ash logs and lumber to include any ash wood in any length, split or unsplit. This would reduce the regulated articles to only those that may actually move emerald ash borer. Although emerald ash borer has been documented to infest white fringe tree in Ohio, there is no risk of emerald ash borer infesting common non-ash firewood species such as oak, birch, maple, etc. This change would simplify emerald ash borer restrictions for firewood producers with the ability to exclude ash and aligns with the rules adapted by the Minnesota DNR for DNR managed lands to exclude ash firewood. Messaging around this change in regulations would emphasize that if in doubt, wood should be assumed to be ash and not moved. Also, the safest wood for consumers to use is MDA certified heat-treated firewood which should continue to be promoted as the best option for consumers.

Another possible change would be to redefine the way that areas are regulated for EAB. Currently, emerald ash borer is regulated at the county level. This is a simple way to identify regulated areas. However, since infestations are not always found in the middle of a county, it is not a perfect way to define an infested area. For example, Wright County was quarantined after EAB was found in the Clearwater area. However, eastern Stearns County is much closer to the infestation and at greater risk than eastern Wright County. This change would rely on the MDA EAB online map to define areas regulated for EAB: www.mda.state.mn.us/eabstatus. It would be the responsibility of any entity moving articles regulated for EAB to insure the articles were not from an infested area.

An opportunity for a new approach to EAB regulation unrelated to the current quarantine regulations is to transition the Tree Care Registry into a Tree Care Certification Program. This change would insure that tree care providers possess knowledge of best management practices to avoid spreading invasive species such as EAB. It would also provide the MDA with an opportunity to promote the importance of using a certified tree care service to the public.

 

Some of the complications present in Option 1 also exist in Option 2. Again, an exterior quarantine would need to be put in place to replace the work previously done by USDA. Also, like in Option 1, it would need to be determined what level of monitoring would be required to have other states and countries recognize unregulated portions of Minnesota as free from EAB.

 

Option 3: Complete deregulation

In this scenario, the MDA would mirror USDA in ceasing all regulatory efforts for EAB and consequently there would be no prohibition on the movement of any items potentially carrying emerald ash borer to any part of the state. However, the MDA would continue efforts to track and report the distribution of EAB, establish and measure biological control efforts, and educate public and professional audiences on how to identify EAB as well as actions to slow its spread to new areas. The Tree Care Certification Program could also be pursued separate from any regulations related to EAB.

 

In this scenario, all of Minnesota would be considered to be infested with EAB by others states and countries once regulatory activity ended.