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Minnesota begins quarantine against destructive mountain pine beetle

DULUTH - The Minnesota Department of Agriculture on Wednesday announced it has initiated a quarantine to keep mountain pine beetles out of the state.

DULUTH - The Minnesota Department of Agriculture on Wednesday announced it has initiated a quarantine to keep mountain pine beetles out of the state.

The quarantine begin New Year’s Day and includes all logs with bark from 13 western states where the beetle has ravaged forests in recent years.

The quarantine, proposed in November when public comments were accepted, does not apply to cured lumber or small nursery trees but would prevent firewood or whole logs from coming into Minnesota from western states where the beetle is thriving.

It’s hoped the quarantine might stop the beetle from hitchhiking on bark-covered pine logs trucked into Minnesota.

It was first reported in November that Minnesota already has had two close calls with the beetle. In October state agriculture officials found mountain pine beetles in firewood imported to Minnesota from Wyoming, although the larvae were dead. Dead beetles also were found on imported wood in 2012.

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University of Minnesota scientists already have determined that the beetles, which are as close as the Black Hills of South Dakota, will indeed colonize and destroy native red, white and jack pine that make up much of northern Minnesota’s famed forests.

The beetles are native to the extreme western U.S. and Canada. But in the past decade, for the first time in recorded history, they’ve crossed the Rocky Mountains and are spreading north and east, destroying trees across 120 million acres in 13 states and much of western Canada. It’s believed that rising temperatures in recent decades have allowed the beetles to better survive winters and then build their numbers to expand.

So far, traps laid for the insect in Minnesota haven’t caught any live beetles here. But researchers say that even if the beetles could be stopped from moving into Minnesota on transported wood, the bugs may march on their own across northern Canada’s boreal forest and then south into Minnesota.

The beetles, each about the size of a grain of rice, lay eggs that burrow under the bark of pines larger than 5 inches in diameter. The larvae tunnel through the outer layer of the tree that transfers water and nutrients, and the tree quickly dies.

The Minnesota quarantine can’t stop Canadian wood from entering the state - that would take federal action. State officials said Minnesota has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to intervene to keep wood from infested provinces out.

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By John Myers, Forum News Service

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