People > Timber and Lumber Imports > Hot
of Importing Wood Products
What is the heart of the controversy
about imports? Like other resource management issues, it
is quite complex.
Importing wood pests.
When logs and untreated wood products
are sent outside their native range, the wood can serve
as a vehicle for tree pests and diseases. These pests and
diseases have been known to travel from other regions of
the world to Oregon, where forest and garden trees sometimes
carry on the infection.
The American elm versus Dutch elm
One example of such an imported pest
is Dutch elm disease, which has severely impacted American
elm trees since the 1930s. Dutch elm disease is a fungus
that ultimately kills elm trees by clogging water-carrying
root and stem tissues. Native to Asia and identified by
a Dutch scientist (thus the name), it was introduced to
the U.S. east coast in the 1930s on a freighter of green
logs being sent to a veneer mill. By 1960 it had killed
about 42 million trees in the Midwest, and was moving west.
By 1985 American elm mortality was seen in eastern Oregon,
and elm trees were thinned in western Oregon cities and
parks to thwart the spread of the disease. Little infection
has been seen in western Oregon.
American hardwoods versus the Asian longhorned beetle.
A more recent example of wood acting
as a vehicle for pests is the Asian longhorned beetle. In
1996 a landlord of a building in Brooklyn, New York, found
an ornamental maple with round holes & sawdust at the
base of the trunk. The local Parks and Recreation Department
discovered the culprit, a large beetle, which a Cornell
University scientist later identified as the Asian longhorned
beetle. The beetle traveled as larvae inside crates to the
U.S. eastern ports, probably to Brooklyn. The crates had
been used to import hardware from China. The beetle is damaging
and killing hardwoods in certain outbreak areas.
It is now largely controlled, but for
how long? Outbreaks have been reported outside of Brooklyn,
started from the simple act of cutting and selling infected
trees as firewood. Some people fear the Asia longhorned
beetle will take its act on the road, potentially moving
west towards Oregon.
Increasingly strict rules on importing
and exporting logs and untreated wood products certainly
help mitigate this situation. And given the imported products
we Oregonians consume, we're doing okay. But what if an
insect or fungus is introduced to Pacific Northwest forests
that kills Douglas-fir trees, nine out of ten trees in western
Oregon forests? You get the picture...
What about "exporting environmental
Three things we know: the population
of the United states continues to grow, the per capita consumption
of wood products has increased steadily over the last three
decades, and the United States currently is a net importer
of timber even though states like Oregon have some of the
most productive forests in the world. What does this mean?
Ultimately it means that we consume wood from other parts
of the world, and as a result our consumption drives forest
management practices that may not be as environmentally
sound as those required by Oregon law.
The debate continues....