Stop the bugs

To the editor:

I agree with your editorial regarding the Emerald Ash Borer, when you stated New York state must change its approach. As both the former president and CEO of the Empire State Forest Products Association and a senior Environmental Protection Agency official, I put into public testimony to the New York Assembly and Senate in 2010 that New York must change the “command and control” approach to a “compliance through cooperation” model used so successfully in other states to mange many environmental protection. I admire and agree with the sincerity of New York Department of Environmental Conservation to slow down the spread of this pest, to “buy time” hoping some applied research will provide a solution, but after nine years, its approach has lost time and few solutions have emerged.

It is counter-intuitive to believe that people and the companies they work for will cooperate to comply with regulations, but studies in state after state that has taken this approach have shown that in fact, voluntary reporting mistakes or other forms of non-compliance but lowering punitive penalties actually increases compliance rates, dramatically reducing the direct costs of enforcement.

We all have the same goal, to reduce exotic pests that have few natural controls that have the potential to change our natural landscape. It’s easy to blame international travel, few incoming inspections by our trading partners in far-off ports, and the challenge of finding very small and difficult-to-detect insects and disease in every shipment. Our U.S. companies have literally spent billions building facilities that kill these pests in our exports with little reciprocity by import countries, especially China, Russia and Southeast Asia.

The Adirondacks is one of the world’s great forests, with both vast managed private forests and protected public forests that are both treated by exotic plants and pests. New York has lost valuable time trying to “control” pests and exotic plants, and finding new creative ways to get cooperation by all forest users is imperative. EAB is the “canary in the coal mine,” giving us a warning that much worse pests and disease are to come if we don’t find a 21st-century approach to a 21st-century problem.

Eric Carlson

Grand Junction, Alaska