CHECK CLOSINGS AND DELAYS

In beetle crackdown, officials will inspect firewood at state park campgrounds

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HARTFORD — Connecticut environmental officials are stepping up efforts to keep out firewood that might contain invasive beetles.

Inspections took place Friday afternoon at the popular Hammonasset Beach State Park campground to make sure any campers with out-of-state firewood have required permits. Those without firewood transport permits were being asked to burn the wood immediately.

Officials are concerned about the spread of insects such as the Asian longhorned beetle, which has led to the destruction of hundreds of acres of trees elsewhere. The insect spends a portion of its life inside the trunk and branches of hardwood trees. It has been found in Massachusetts and New York, but not Connecticut.

Hammonasset is the state’s most popular campground. Campers are being encouraged to buy firewood close to the campground and to leave other firewood at home this summer.

Connecticut residents who check into Hammonasset with their own firewood from in-state will be reminded of the state park policy that encourages campers to purchase firewood within close proximity to the campground and that state law requires proof of the origin of the wood.

Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said that the harmful beetles – which have not yet been detected in Connecticut – spend a portion of their lifecycle as larvae inside the trunk and branches of trees.

The nearest infestation is within 30 miles of the state border with Massachusetts, where Federal and State agricultural and forestry officials continue to eradicate the  infestation within a 110-square-mile quarantine zone in Worcester and surrounding towns. This effort has resulted in the removing over 35,000 trees in Massachusetts, and since October 2008 has cost the U.S. Department of Agriculture over $146 million, according to DEEP.

In New York, 137 square miles are under regulation which includes the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, and a portion of central Long Island.