Spruce beetle could close borders between New Brunswick and U.S.

Posted Sept. 05, 2011, at 9:14 p.m.

SAINT JOHN, New Brunswick — The beetle that decimated Halifax’s Point Pleasant Park has appeared in New Brunswick, but a Nova Scotia forestry expert says the bug could pose more of a threat to trade than to trees.

The brown longhorn spruce beetle feeds on spruce trees, which are the “mainstay” of woodland owners in Atlantic Canada, said Andrew Fedora, executive director of the Federation of Nova Scotia Woodland Owners.

Fedora, who is also on the steering committee of the national task force set up for the pest, warned if the beetle’s spread isn’t handled properly, it could shut down borders between New Brunswick and the U.S.

“If the maritime region isn’t perceived to be doing all it can do to prevent the spread of that bug, then that could severely restrict trade relations with the U.S.,” he said.

“It doesn’t have a passport, and with that, there’s a threat of tighter regulations,” he said.

The beetle, which first landed in Halifax from Europe a decade ago, has a very “sporadic” spread, Fedora said, and relies on manpower to get anywhere, often hitching a ride on untreated firewood.

Fedora said while the beetle damages forests, it’s no worse than any indigenous species. The problem, he said, comes from its invasive nature.

“If I was a landowner in New Brunswick, that would be my primary concern: ‘How is this going to affect how I market my wood,’” Fedora said. “I’d be less concerned about the overall health of my forest.”

But Ken Hardie of the New Brunswick Federation of Woodlot Owners said there’s no reason to panic.

“It’s a bug in a trap,” Hardie said, pointing out that there are hundreds of traps to monitor for new species in New Brunswick.

The beetle was found in Kouchibouguac National Park, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced Wednesday, making it the first time the pest has left Nova Scotia since it arrived in North America.

“There’s no harvesting that takes place in parks,” Hardie said, noting that a quarantine of the area shouldn’t affect woodlot owners.

Gregg Cunningham, the forestry specialist for the Atlantic division of the food inspection agency, said they’ve been working closely with Parks Canada and the provincial Department of Natural Resources to monitor the beetle’s presence and contain its spread.

The beetle was found “well within” the national park, 165 kilometers away from the closest known presence of the bug in Nova Scotia, meaning it almost certainly was transported by firewood, Cunningham said.

In Nova Scotia, when the pest is found, a minimum area of 1 kilometer from the find is put into quarantine, with all spruce roundwood, bark and wood chips prohibited from being moved, Cunningham said.

He said Parks Canada, which runs the national park, already forbids moving any spruce wood out of the park without a permit.

Cunningham said it’s crucial campers not transport firewood, but instead buy wood near their campground to prevent the spread of invasive species.

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