By Gregg McLachlan
There is growing fear in southern Ontario that a decision by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to amalgamate zones infected with emerald ash borer will put the region’s last great forested region at serious risk.
If the CFIA proceeds, it’s almost a certainty that the exotic invader will arrive in greater numbers and wreak havoc on Norfolk County, Canada’s Forest Capital.
Norfolk County is southern Ontario’s largest remaining forested area with 25% forest cover. It has managed to contain a discovery of emerald ash borer found in an isolated forest in late 2007. However, amalgamating the forested county with other neighbouring infected areas such as Chatham-Kent and Windsor, which have faced serious, widespread battles with the invading beetles, will open Norfolk to new infestations, woodlot officials warn.
Current quarantine areas restrict the movement of logs only within each zone. Creating one large amalgamated quarantine zone would allow the movement of potentially infected wood products across several counties, thereby spreading ash borer within a large area, and into heavily-forested Norfolk County.
Before ash borer arrived in Norfolk in 2007, officials expressed fear about the consequences of the insect reaching the county and the potential to cause devastating damage. Other Ontario southwestern Ontario regions hit by emerald ash borer contain nowhere near the forest cover as Norfolk County.
The CFIA says almagamating the zones into one large management area will allow it to concentrate on preventing the spread of ash borer into eastern Canada. Not only would new infestations endanger Norfolk’s vast forests, but officials also warn that fighting such a widespread infestation could bankrupt the small municipality. (In much larger Chatham-Kent, about $13 million has been spent attacking the native Asian beetle which has devoured millions of ash trees in Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and southwestern Ontario since first arriving in 2002.)
“Why would the CFIA expedite the spread of a known invasive and destructive insect like EAB, unless they do not care to protect Canada’s woodlands,” said Mark Sommerville, president of the Norfolk Woodlot Owners Association which represents hundreds of woodlot owners in the county. “It is a slap in the face to private woodlot owners in Norfolk who have been wise stewards and conserved this resource for all of society.”
Norfolk County is also nationally recognized as the last great remaining tract of Carolinian forest in Canada, and is the home of Canada’s first forestry station.
Contact the CFIA and voice your opinion at 1-800-442-2342 or email the agency.