State considers permanent ban on ohia transport

HILO, Hawaii (AP) — State officials are set to consider whether an emergency quarantine put into effect last summer to prevent the spread of a fungus that has destroyed thousands of acres of the Big Island’s native forests should be a permanent rule.

The quarantine prohibits transport of ohia from the island as the state continues battling the disease known as rapid ohia death. The Hawaii Board of Agriculture will vote Tuesday on a proposal that would “designate the island of Hawaii as a rapid ohia death infested area” and make the ban permanent, according to the board’s agenda.

Under the proposal, transporting ohia “flowers, leaves, seeds, stems, twigs, cuttings, wood, logs, mulch, green waste, frass and soil” from the Big Island would be prohibited except in cases where the Department of Agriculture has issued a permit. Interisland transport would not be impacted, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported (http://bit.ly/1TUgWoB).

J.B. Friday, extension forester with the University of Hawaii, said the quarantine serves as an effective tool for slowing rapid ohia death’s spread, especially relating to the transport of ohia wood.

“In terms of the likelihood of something moving the disease, wood is really it because this fungus is in the sapwood,” Friday said. “That’s a really risky thing to move.”

The fungus was first discovered in 2010 and has since affected more than 36,000 acres of ohia trees.

The emergency yearlong quarantine rule gave “agencies time to determine possible needs,” said Christy Martin of the Oahu-based Coordinating Group on Alien and Pest Species. Public outreach has played a major role in the fight against the disease, she said.

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