ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 18, 2011 -- A collaboration of diverse interests aimed at addressing the threat of non-native insects and diseases is urging the United States 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 currently considering an amendment to the regulations for the importation of unmanufactured wood articles to remove the exemption. Canada is second only to China in providing imports to the United States, and these goods move primarily in wood packaging to all areas of the country. If the USDA amends the regulation, Canada is expected to take similar action because of the threat of non-native insects and diseases that could arrive on the wood packaging from the United States.

"Invasive insects hiding in wood packaging from Canada have been intercepted at the border, despite the fact that this material is unregulated and so inspected only rarely," said Faith Campbell, senior policy representative at the Nature Conservancy. "Because of the huge volume of imports we receive from Canada, ending the country's exemption from the requirement that wood packaging be treated would close this pathway of non-native pests into the United States."

"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 United States, which could arrive on untreated wood packaging. However, 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 United States 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, vectored by the ambrosia beetle, which is native to Asia.

"These non-native pests cannot move long distances on their own, and by not taking measures to prevent the movement of untreated wood for long distances and by not requiring that wood that is transported long distances be treated to kill these bugs, we are allowing these very destructive pests to hitchhike from country to country, state to state, and county to county," said Sally Anderson, president of the Virginia Plant Society. "Without preventive measures, these invasive insects and diseases can wipe out our native plants and trees, devastating homeowners' and community gardens and nearby forests."

On January 31, 2011, 29 groups under the auspices of the Continental Dialogue on Non-Native Forest Insects and Diseases sent a letter to the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in support of the proposal by APHIS to amend the regulations for the importation of unmanufactured wood articles (7 CFR §319.40-3) to remove Canada's exemption from the requirements that apply to wood packaging material from all other countries. The groups also recommended that APHIS continue to pursue a method to control movement of invasive pests domestically via untreated wood, which would replace the patchwork of federal quarantines and state and local regulations.

The groups include:

Alliance for Green Heat; ·American Forest Foundation; ·American Lumber Standards Committee; ·City of Chicago Bureau of Forestry; ·Colorado State University, Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management; ·The Davey Institute; · Florida Native Plant Society; ·Greenspace-the Cambria Land Trust; ·Georgia Native Plant Society; ·Iowa State University, Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management; ·Louisiana Native Plant Society ·Massachusetts Association of Campground Owners; ·Mycological Society of America; ·National Association of State Foresters ·National Plant Board; ·National Wooden Pallet and Container Association; ·Native Plant Society of Texas; ·North American Maple Syrup Council, Inc.; ·North Carolina Native Plant Society ·New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; ·Oregon Department of Agriculture; · Oregon State University, Department of Botany and Plant Pathology; ·Purdue University, Department of Entomology; ·Society of American Florists; ·Society of Municipal Arborists; ·Tennessee Native Plant Society; ·The Nature Conservancy; ·University of California Berkeley, Department of Plant & Microbial Biology; ·Virginia Native Plant Society.

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The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 18 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 117 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. For more information, please visit

The Continental Dialogue on Non-Native Forest Insects and Diseases is a group of organizations and individuals that cultivates and catalyzes collaborative action among diverse interests to abate the threat to North American forests from non-native insects and diseases. For more information, please visit

SOURCE The Nature Conservancy

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