Volume 15, Issue 5 ~ February 1 - February 7, 2007


Fending Off Little Green Monsters

Ever seen The Fly, the horror film in which a wacky scientist played by Jeff Goldblum turns into a menacing, big-eyed insect?

Think smaller and green, and it’s similar to what our state is up against in the fight against the emerald ash borer.

It’s vogue in some political circles to bash government. We’ve been guilty of it ourselves in this space.

But from what we’ve witnessed up close, the Maryland departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources are doing their best at keeping this voracious little devil at bay.

Some background: The emerald ash border already has destroyed 20 million trees and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage in Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana and southern Canada since sneaking into North America a few years back on Chinese raw wood pallets.

It’s in Maryland now, but thanks to first-rate sleuthing and fast action, state experts have contained the pest in Prince George’s County. As we write, the battle to find the borers, cut down infected trees and stop the spread is raging.

Do not take these invaders lightly: Besides ruining forests, they have the capacity to cost Maryland taxpayers millions of dollars in damages.

This is a case where Annapolis is more important than ever. Why? Because in Washington, the newly reorganized Customs and Border Protection unit has downgraded vigilance against invasive species in the quest to protect the nation against terrorists.

Agriculture specialists at the border tell of being demeaned as “bug cops” by customs and immigration officials and warn that pests and plant diseases we don’t even know about could be showing up. The threat is heightened by our desire for cheap Chinese goods, which are packed sometimes with untreated wood barely out of the forest and filled with potential eco-terrorists evolved to baffle American predators.

As the Maryland General Assembly gets going, members should give the Agriculture Department all the money and tools needed to protect us against invasive species.

This winged invader — and perhaps other exotics we haven’t yet detected — are real life horror shows.

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