SPOKANE — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee thought it would be a nice gesture to bring some apples from his own tree when he visited communities ravaged by wildfire last week.
Instead he was breaking the law.
By bringing apples from trees growing at the governor’s mansion in Olympia, Inslee was violating state regulations about bringing homegrown fruit from an apple-maggot quarantine area into pest-free counties.
The Spokesman-Review reported that Washington is divided into quarantine zones, with large signs along the highways warning people not to transport homegrown fruit into pest-free areas. Most of Eastern Washington, which grows 65% of the nation’s apples, is pest-free.
“It was a nice gesture, but not well-thought-through,” said state Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake. “As the state’s executive, he should have followed the law to keep our state’s agriculture safe instead of putting it at risk. I think the stiffest penalties are in order.”
Inslee is a Democrat who is seeking his third term as governor, after earlier abandoning a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Bringing home-grown apples into a pest-free zone is a misdemeanor, but the state rarely cites anyone, said Hector Castro, a spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture.
“Our practice has always been to educate the person and advise them that there’s a quarantine in effect,” he said.
That’s what they’ve done to the governor’s office, Castro said: “They are well aware now that there’s a quarantine.”
Local officials are trying to round up the apples Inslee brought to people in the towns of Bridgeport and Malden last week.
Inslee’s office issued a statement from the governor in which he said he and his wife Trudi picked the apples and he brought them along as a way “to express comfort for the communities suffering from devastating fires.”
“We regret this mistake. This is a good reminder of the importance of awareness around apple quarantine,” Inslee said.