ANNAPOLIS -- The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is considering a plan to double its logging efforts in areas most susceptible to gypsy moths.
The state Forest, Park and Wildlife Service has proposed cutting larger areas of timber than usual to recover the value of the wood before it is lost to the moth, which defoliates and kills trees. The state's control efforts, so far, have focused on chemical spraying.
The moths have been spreading south since they were mistakenly introduced in Massachusetts in 1869. The insects began to appear in Maryland during the 1970s.
The line of infestation currently reaches from Cecil County west to Garrett County, south to Baltimore and southeast to Easton on the Eastern Shore.
The agency has proposed cutting 6,300 acres of hardwoods during the next five years in the Savage River State Forest in Garrett County. About 3,600 acres were cut during the past five years.
Environmentalists are upset with the plan, contending that the state fails to realize the recreational and wildlife purposes of the forests.
The value of the logs is taking precedence over other uses, including hiking, fishing and wildlife, said Neal Fitzpatrick, president of the Maryland Conservation Council.
After the complaints were heard in summer, the department decided to reconsider the plan, said Terry Clark, chief of forest management.
Foresters believe that by removing the types of trees the moths like -- oak, apple, basswood, aspen, birch and willow -- they will make the stands of trees more resistant to the moths. Fitzpatrick said there is a difference of opinion whether thinning is effective unless it is done years before the infestation.
The department is expected to decide on the plan in a few months.