CFIA insect rules trap wood products in 5 Nova Scotia counties

A wide range of wood and wood products are not allowed to leave Digby, Queens, Shelburne, Yarmouth and Annapolis counties following restrictions imposed Dec. 19.

Restrictions alarm some in forestry industry who say Dec. 19 rules unclear, costly

Woodlot owners and others in Nova Scotia's forest industry say they need clarification on the restrictions keeping wood products stuck in five of the province's rural counties. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

People who work in Nova Scotia's forestry industry say new federal restrictions on the movement of wood products in five counties in the province are unclear, and costly.

Woodlot owners, mills and firewood vendors are all impacted. A wide range of wood and wood products are not allowed to leave Digby, Queens, Shelburne, Yarmouth and Annapolis counties.

The restrictions were put in place Dec. 19 by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to stop the spread of the hemlock woolly adelgid, an aphid-like insect that attacks and kills hemlock trees.

"It's getting to the point that I really need to know something," said Wade Turner, president of J.A. Turner and Sons, a mill outside Bridgewater that sources some of its wood from nearby Queens County.

"We're also probably the largest supplier of hemlock bark mulch in western Nova Scotia and that's a big part of our revenue stream. I suspect that's something I'm not going to be able to transport around either."

Hemlock woolly adelgids are shown on hemlock tree needles via a microscope in this October 2016 file photo. (Elise Amendola/Associated Press)

Turner said 60 to 70 per cent of his hemlock supply comes from the counties that are infested. Besides mulch, much of the hemlock he sells is used to make posts for guardrails and supports for bridges.

The restrictions set out by the CFIA state that no hemlock, yeddo spruce or tiger-tail spruce is allowed to leave the infested counties. Firewood of all species is also restricted, as are forest products with bark attached like wood mulch, logs and lumber. Plants for planting, dried branches, Christmas trees and branches are also to be kept in the five counties.

"That's my frustrating part," said Turner. "We're only about 25 kilometres out of Queens County as the crow flies, so we're so close yet so far."

The hemlock woolly adelgid appears as white, woolly sacks on the base of hemlock needles. (CFIA)

Many woodlot owners feel the same, according to Patricia Amero, a forester and general manager of the Western Woodlot Services Cooperative.

She said it's unclear when the restrictions will be lifted or if there's some way the wood can be processed to remove the insects so it can be safely moved outside the infested counties. 

If firewood vendors have to remove all the bark from the wood they sell it could get very costly, says Amero (Grant Linton/CBC)

Firewood vendors are also confused and worried about the restrictions, said Amero. They're concerned they may have to strip the bark off of firewood to remove the adelgids, and that would be costly. 

"It adds an exorbitant amount of cost on it, so it's just more hardships put on them," she said.

"At this point, it seems like there's just more questions than answers. Like this was just put in place before the Christmas holidays, so now that we're all back we're just trying to dig and make calls and figure out what is possible, like what can we do?"  

The CFIA has so far provided them with little clarification, said Turner and Amero.

In an email, the CFIA told CBC News that the movement restrictions will remain in place indefinitely. If producers want to move their product out of the restricted area they need to get a certificate from the CFIA to do so. The only way to get  one is to follow CFIA policies to ensure that the insects are not introduced into non-infested areas.

The CFIA said it is planning meetings and outreach activities to share information and address any questions or concerns.

Producers are being asked to contact their local CFIA office for more information.  

With files from Information Morning