Willamette Institute for Biological Control, Inc.



From: Bill Denison


The Directors of the Willamette Institute for Biological Control oppose the importation of raw sawlogs from Siberia to the lumber ports of the Pacific North west because there is grave danger of importing with the logs an insect, fungus disease, or other pest. In the past, pests introduced by accident devastated three major American trees: Chestnut Blight virtually eliminated the American Chestnut; Blister Rust destroyed White Pines; and Dutch Elm Disease killed a majority of American Elms. If we import raw Siberian larch logs, the most likely victim of an accidentally introduced disease is Douglas-fir, the most important timber species in the Pacific North west. Therefore, we oppose the importation of Siberian logs.


In 1990 Louisiana Pacific proposed to begin importing raw conifer logs from Siberia to compensate western mills for the declining supply of local logs. A test shipment of pine and larch logs arrived in California in late summer. Further shipments were banned by the Secretary of Agriculture pending a full technical review of the danger of importing pests or diseases with the logs. Yet, faced with further mill closures, timber companies and timber-dependent communities continue to view the importation of raw logs as a possible short term solution to the dwindling local supply of logs.

It is our position that the log importation ban should be made permanent. We believe the threat to the health of our forests is too great to permit continued importation. Further, we believe there is no practical means to inspect logs, or to treat them, to ensure that they are free of pests and disease.

The proposal presented to the APHIS (USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service), by Louisiana Pacific and Texas Timber Exports, at a meeting in San Francisco Tuesday, 6 November 1990, envisioned the entry of one shipload of raw logs a week (40 shiploads a year) into Eureka, CA, beginning in January 1991.

Once the mills of Eureka had begun full scale operation using Siberian logs, it would have been hard to limit the import of logs elsewhere. Who would want to deprive Coos Bay, Oregon, for example, of a similar supply? Or Astoria? Or Olympia, Washington? Or Aberdeen?

Importation of raw logs on this scale, say 200 shiploads a year, would almost certainly introduce major new threats to the health of our co mmercial forests. The results of past accidental introductions of pests and diseases of forest trees have been disastrous. There are multiple examples, some resulting in the virtually complete loss of a once valuable timber species.

The ches tnut blight, caused by a fungus, is a case in point. In Asia the fungus causes little or no damage to Asiatic chestnuts, but within three decades after its introduction to America, around the turn of the century, it had virtually destroyed the valuable s tands of American chestnut in the eastern United States. Today there is still no effective control for the disease. The American chestnut is not quite extinct, but we have effectively lost it as a commercial species.

The Dutch elm disease is another example. Although the fungus causing this disease may have entered the United States originally on nursery stock, massive introductions came from imported logs. "The widely scattered almost simultaneous outbreaks of the disease in spite of s ome 20 years of strict international quarantine of nursery stock was the cause of surprise and alarm. It was discovered that elm logs had been imported, unimpeded, from Europe for some years prior to the outbreak." (Walker, J. C. 1950. Plant path ology. McGraw- Hill) As with chestnut blight, this fungus does not cause serious disease on Old World elms.

White pine blister rust is yet another example. This fungus attacks conifers, especially the five-needled white pines native to North America. On its Asiatic hosts it is relatively innocuous, but on our pines it has been devastating.

It is hard to tell if seeds or nursery stock harbor a dangerous pest. It is much more difficult to try to examine an intact log -- still worse a shipload of logs. It is not possible, and will never be possible, to examine an intact log in sufficient detail to be certain it does not contain a dangerous fungus.

Furthermore, a list of fungi and other pests known to cause diseases on Asiatic conifers, even if complete, is not an adequate guide to the potentially dangerous organisms harbored on imported logs. Not one the catastrophic fungi cited above is serious pest on it Asiatic hosts.

It is difficult to see how the impo rtation of raw logs from Siberia makes economic sense, given that we are continuing to export raw logs to Asia. Whatever the profit to mills, log brokers, or shippers, that profit would quickly be wiped out by the cost of controlling, or attempting to co ntrol, a major introduced pest. Consider, for example, the recent cost of containing the Gypsy Moth in the Willamette Valley, or the as yet unsuccssful attempt to control the Eastern Filbert Blight in Oregon, or the cost of control measures for the Medit erranean Fruit Fly in California.

Past efforts to control pests chemically have often created serious, unanticipated problems. With time, pests developed resistance to a pesticide, or the pesticide damaged beneficial organisms, including huma ns and their domesticated plants and animals.

However, one simple method of pest control has been successful. That method is quarantine. Quarantine means keeping foreign pests and diseases out of the country by banning the importation of disea sed or pest-infested plants or animals.

The broad Pacific Ocean is a wonderful barrier, a cheap protection against the introduction of disastrous forest diseases.

We believe the ban on importation of raw logs from Siberia should be made permanent, explicit, and public.

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