Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Neighbor Problems

         Years ago, my wife and I moved from a starter house in a friendly neighborhood to our dream house on the hill. We love our new house, but we miss the friendly neighbors. Our relationship with the new neighbors is best described as strained. Neighboring states and countries don’t always get along either. Invasive species are a common source of friction. Here are some examples from Oregon’s neighborhood.

         The pet food cricket industry has struggled recently with a viral disease. Until recently, Acheta domesticus was the standard. The industry turned to Europe to find a ready replacement, Gryllus assimilis. Scientists that study crickets advised us that bringing in another exotic species was a bad idea, especially one in the genus Gryllus that could establish in the wild and compete with our native species. Luckily there was a better replacement candidate already in culture. Oregon refused to sign permits for G. assimilis and instead recommended Gryllodes sigillatus. The industry and other states have come around to our way of thinking -- Canada has not.
         Brand new draft regulations for importing insects into Canada list G. assimilis as “No Import Permit Required.” In other words, you can import G. assimilis into Canada without restriction. Sooner or later everything imported to Canada ends up in the United States - in other words, our back door is wide open. This is not the first time we’ve encountered this north-south pathway. Apple ermine moth, cherry bark tortrix, and boxwood blight all were introduced first to Canada, then spread south or were shipped south to Oregon.

         Canada’s regulations are different than ours. They are designed to protect Canada from invasive species that might impact their agriculture or environment. Naturally, they care about species adapted to their climate and environment. G. assimilis is a low risk for them. Protecting their neighbors to the south is not their highest priority.

         We have similar issues with our neighbors to the south. They have pests that we don’t want, and sometimes they aren’t concerned because the risk is low – for them. Light brown apple moth is a good example. It was introduced to California a few years back from Australia. To California, this species is a minor pest, and they dropped their eradication program after a public outcry over proposed aerial spraying. We were big supporters of their spray program. Getting rid of the pest in California would have been an excellent way to protect the apple industry of the Pacific Northwest.

         Sometimes we face multiple problem neighbors. Hydrilla, an aquatic weed on our 100 Worst List, has been found in California, Washington, and Idaho. We’re surrounded! Zebra and quagga mussels also threaten to invade from both the east and the south. Saltmarsh cord grass is established on the West Coast both north and south of Oregon.

         It is easy to blame our neighbors, but least we get too smug, it is worth remembering that other states and countries look at Oregon as a source of headaches for them. We have species that they don’t want. A few examples: brownmarmorated stink bug is spreading out from its western beachhead in Portland;  German yellowjackets and Swiss needle cast in Oregon Christmas trees are a worry for Hawaii and Mexico; and sudden oak death pops up from time to time in Oregon nurseries causing alarm among regulatory officials in states that buy our nursery stock. It’s a 2-way street, or more accurately it’s a flat world (sorry Magellan).

         In the realm of plant protection, the National Plant Board is our “neighborhood association” where these issues get thrashed out. The meetings are always interesting and occasionally tense. 

         You’re part of Oregon’s invasive species neighborhood too – we all are. We’re all stuck with the neighbors around us, and what they do impacts us – and they’re stuck with us and what we do impacts them. It’s no wonder our neighbor-to-neighbor relations are sometimes strained – just like at home.

Dan Hilburn

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