LOUISVILLE - Kentucky officials have ended a 30-county wood quarantine that was intended to contain the emerald ash borer, an insect that already has killed more than 25 million trees in the eastern U.S.
Agriculture officials said the insects likely will now spread more quickly through Kentucky. But they also said the 30-county quarantine has been ineffective. And they said the federal government has more resources to deal with the problem.
The battle against the ash borer will now be left up to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Because Kentucky is no longer quarantining those 30 counties, the entire state will join a large quarantine zone that includes Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and West Virginia.
Regulated ash-related products can only be moved outside the zone under certain conditions.
The Kentucky Division of Forestry has estimated that Kentucky has more than 220 million green and white ash trees in the state, which are susceptible to attack. Jefferson County alone is estimated to have 2.5 million ash trees, comprising roughly 10 percent to 17 percent of the county's tree canopy.
Kentucky State Entomologist John J. Obrycki said state officials had little choice in their decision. The infestations were dispersing rapidly, trapping and tracking the ash borer's spread wasn't very effective, and federal funding to help pay for the tracking was drying up.
Paul Cappiello, executive director of Yew Dell Botanical Gardens, said he suspects that the emerald ash borer has spread well beyond the 30 Kentucky counties where it's been identified. But he said he does not want Kentucky residents to get the idea that moving firewood around the state is now OK.
"We've finally started to make some progress on getting people to think before they pack the car with wood on the way to the cabin," he said. "That's a way of thinking that we should be encouraging, not abandoning."