State officials are proposing changing their strategy for slowing the spread of the invasive emerald ash borer.
The destructive beetle arrived in New Hampshire in 2013 and has now entered seven counties, including Carroll and Grafton, where the majority of the state's ash trees grow.
Ash makes up about 6 percent of the state’s hardwood forests, netting at least $1 million for the forest products industry every year.
State forest health program coordinator Kyle Lombard says the way the ash borer has spread means the quarantine that has long kept untreated firewood from crossing county lines is no longer worthwhile.
"We just can't afford the resources to protect a very small amount of ash while all the ash we're trying to protect is actually inside the quarantine, and there's no regulation on the movement inside of a quarantine,” he says.
Now, the state is proposing banning the transport of ash logs anywhere when the insects are active, between June and September.
They also want people to keep untreated ash logs out of their firewood, and only move those logs within a five-mile radius of where they were cut – or leave them to season for 12 months before moving them farther.
Treated firewood is still fine to use. But as under the quarantine, no untreated firewood should be brought into or out of the state.
Lombard says the ash borer has spread relatively slowly in New Hampshire – but since the beetles can fly, no quarantine could fully contain them.
The ash borer has also emerged in neighboring Vermont and, more recently, Maine.
Now, he says, it’s time for a longer-term approach.
“We don't want people to get the impression we're throwing our hands up,” he says. “It's just the opposite."
He says the state is also releasing “biocontrol” wasps that hunt the emerald ash borer. Within a few decades, Lombard says, the beetles’ population should level off.
The public can comment on the change in quarantine and management strategies through Sept. 21.