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Utah Department of Agriculture officials are stepping up their war against the gypsy moth this year and have quarantined nearly 150,000 acres along the east benches in Salt Lake, Davis and Utah counties - nearly 30 times as much area as was quarantined last year.

Educational roadblocks were expected to start in Bountiful as soon as possible and will start in Salt Lake and Utah counties later this month.More than 20,000 acres will be treated with chemical spray in the three quarantined areas - more than 16 times as large a spray area as last year - beginning the first of May and continuing for three to four weeks or more, according to Van E. Burgess, director of plant industry for the Utah Department of Agriculture, and Edward J. Bianco, state entomologist.

If allowed to go unchecked, the gypsy moth can devastate fruit and hardwood trees, oak brush and watershed lands and cause millions of dollars damage, they said.

Bianco said he would be in Bountiful, near the area of 400 North and Bountiful Boulevard, to conduct educational roadblocks. He said he and others from the Utah Department of Agriculture will tell as many people as possible on Bountiful's east-bench streets what the gypsy moth quarantine and spraying program is all about.

Target areas within the larger quarantined areas will be sprayed three times beginning in May, Burgess said, with a seven- to 10-day period between sprayings.

Helicopters will apply a biological spray, called Bacillus Thuringiensis, or BT, which is a naturally occurring pesticide that attacks the digestive system of the gypsy moth caterpillar. Three helicopters will be used to spray the chemical, and two other helicopters will be used to observe the spraying.

Burgess said the cost of the spray and applying the spray will be $572,260. But he said that does not include the cost of personnel from his department who will be involved in the program.

"During the week of April 23, we'll have the pilots in Salt Lake City and hold workshops on the spraying program and do some flying to check over all the areas to be sprayed," Burgess said.

The program is complicated, he said, because precipitation, wind and temperature play an important role and the areas to be sprayed range from about 5,000 feet in elevation to 9,000 feet.

The quarantine area in Salt Lake County - 115,200 acres - runs from the Lone Peak Wilderness area on the south to Little Mountain on the north and from Wasatch Boulevard on the west to well into the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains and Forest Service property on the east.

Target areas for spraying include 7,213 acres near Lostwood Drive, Bell Canyon, Dimple Dell Road, Little Cottonwood Canyon, Dead Smith Canyon, Big Cottonwood Canyon, Olympus Cove, Neffs Canyon, Mill Creek, Mount Aire, Lambs Canyon and Little Mountain.

Bountiful's quarantine area, 16,640 acres, runs from about 2200 South to 1600 North and from Main Street into the foothills east of the city well beyond 1300 East.

Target areas for spraying in Bountiful include 7,362 acres in Mueller Park and Pole Canyon and near such major roads as 400 East, 200 West, 2200 South, Davis Boulevard, 900 East, 400 North and Main Street.

The area in Provo quarantined - 17,280 acres - lies between U-52 on the south and U.S. 189 on the north (Provo Canyon Road), nearly as far west as University Avenue and well into the foothills on the east.

Some 5,489 areas will be sprayed, especially along Foothill Drive and Windsor Rock Canyon.

Burgess said the spray is not harmful to people, pets or plants, or the paint on cars or houses. It is designed specifically to harm only the gypsy moth caterpillar.

Burgess said people who live in the quarantined areas need to inspect any vehicle that stands outside or have it inspected and have a form from the Utah Department of Agriculture filled out and in their possession whenever they leave the quarantined area. Brush and cut trees must be taken to city landfills.

Roadblocks will be set up, he said, to ensure compliance with quarantine regulations.

"The spray is important, but the quarantine is equally valuable in getting rid of the gypsy moth. We need people's cooperation."