Citing concerns about a destructive invasion of exotic beetles, South Carolina officials are moving to tighten the state’s firewood sales.
The Department of Plant Industry (DPI) at Clemson University will hold a September 29 public hearing in Pendleton as it considers an emergency statewide quarantine for wood and wood products affected by the Emerald Ash Borer. The wood-boring insect is originally from Asia, but has rapidly decimated ash trees in American forests ever since its first detected in Detroit 15 years ago.
South Carolina will be added to a federal quarantine restricting the interstate shipment of all ash wood and wood products and all hardwood firewood. Clemson University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will issue permits requiring commercial firewood businesses to treat the wood in a kiln to kill any larva hiding in the bark. A seller must document the wood was heated at 140 degrees for at least an hour before it can move across state lines.
“We wouldn’t jump immediately into a statewide quarantine,” assistant DPI director Steven Long said. “But this is a pretty unique pest, with a pretty unique background and a lot of science already behind this.”
Long said most companies which sell firewood commercially already follow the practice. The agency is also asking individuals to only burn firewood close to wherever it was collected so as to limit the insect’s spread. “Carrying firewood from one place to another is one of the primary ways that this insect and other pests can travel and infest new areas,” he said.
Clemson officials confirmed last month they found emerald ash borers in Greenville, Oconee and Spartanburg counties. South Carolina is now the 31st state to detect the insect inside its borders.
Ash trees make up only a small portion of the state’s timber industry, but Long said there are no regulations in place to distinguish different types of firewood. Therefore, all firewood is covered by the quarantine, even wood from trees unlikely to be contaminated.
The bug is easily recognizable from the “D” shaped holes it leaves in the ash trees on which it feeds. Despite the new efforts, Long said he expects the borer will be here to stay. Similar efforts in other states may have slowed the spread, but the lack of natural predators means the species continues to expand and populate its range.
A public hearing will be 10 a.m. at the Center for Applied Technology in Pendleton.