-- A coalition says non-native insects and diseases threaten U.S. hardwoods forests due to an exemption allowing Canada to export in untreated wood crates.

The group, unusual in its mix of industrial interests and environmentalists, is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to subject wood packaging material from Canada to the same requirements other countries must follow for this material before it can enter the country. Currently, the governments of the United States and Canada exempt each other from the requirements of the International Standard for Phytosanitary Measures #15, which requires that wood packaging – primarily crates, spools, and pallets – coming from other countries be treated to help prevent the spread of invasive insects and diseases to native trees and plants.

The USDA is considering amending the regulations for importation of unmanufactured wood articles, to remove Canada's exemption. If that happens, Canada is expected to follow suit because of the threat of non-native insects and diseases that could arrive on the wood packaging from the U.S.

"Our industry is very supportive of any measures that will prevent the spread of invasive pests through the movement of goods in wood packaging," said Tom Searles of the American Lumber Standards Committee.

Canada has some introduced pests, such as the brown spruce longhorned beetle, that are not yet found in the U.S., which could arrive on untreated wood packaging. Both countries have existing populations of introduced Eurasian species whose infestations have been limited to certain areas of both countries, and untreated wood packaging could lead to more widespread introductions of these pests.

The Asian longhorned beetle, currently established in areas of the Northeast and responsible for the removal of 30,000 trees in Worcester, MA alone, arrived in the U.S. in wood packaging. The emerald ash borer, responsible for the death or decline of tens of millions of ash trees in 14 states in the Midwest and Northeast also most likely arrived in this country in wood packaging. A pathogen that has been introduced to the Unites States due to wood packaging is laurel wilt disease, brought by the ambrosia beetle, which is native to Asia.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.