Kansas isn't really a forest state, but the black walnut lumber and nut business is worth about $160 million a year, derived from the state's some 25 million black walnut trees.
There is a huge threat to that economic segment in Kansas, something called "thousand cankers disease."
The threat has been confirmed in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Vermont, Nevada, California, Idaho, Washington, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. Several quarantines have been established in an attempt to prevent the disease from spreading. Kansas joins 10 other states in quarantine, joining Oklahoma, Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wyoming and Montana.
"It's an interesting disease that requires two parts," said Ryan Armbrust, a forest health specialist with the Kansas Forest Service. "There's a small walnut twig beetle that will feed on the twigs of black walnut trees. In doing this, it will spread a fungus that causes cankers and causes the tree's vascular system to clog up and die."
The beetle is tiny —about the size of the letter "i" in the word Liberty on a dime. The flight season for the beetle is typically in the warmer months, but it can survive in the tree throughout the year. Since there are currently no viable treatment options, Armbrust says the best defense is to avoid moving black walnut tree firewood or lumber out of an area, especially if it still contains the bark.
"While it may seem safer to move black walnut material in the wintertime, when the beetle isn't flying around, that beetle could still be contained within that bark. When it warms up in the spring, it could come out," Armbrust said. "There really is no safe time of year to move black walnut lumber, especially from an area that has been infested."
One of the biggest threats comes from firewood which moves widely from state to state at this time of year.