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Forest Conservation

Firewood: Buy It Where You Burn It


Super Rangers and the Legion of Bugs

Our cartoon shows just how scary invasive insects can be to our forests.

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Firewood, a staple of almost any camping trip, can be a simple and useful forest product. But when you transport firewood to your campsite or vacation home, you could unknowingly spread dangerous insects and diseases, which have the potential to kill millions of trees.

Transported firewood could spread devastating invasive species, including:

The Nature Conservancy urges campers, travelers and homeowners to purchase their firewood locally to avoid the spread of invasive infestations. To best protect trees, make sure all your firewood is sourced less than 50 miles from where it will be burned.

Buy Where You Burn

With the increase of non-native insects and diseases throughout the country, campers can no longer transfer firewood without risk. It is imperative when we use firewood to camp, hunt or heat our homes that we buy wood where we burn it. 

Here are some tips on finding safe firewood for your next trip:

  • When driving to a campsite more than 50 miles away, call the state or federal park or forests nearest the site and ask if they know of local distributors.
  • Search the yellow pages for a local dealer.
  • Ask the firewood dealer where the wood was cut — if it isn’t within 50 miles, or if it is from outside the county, find another source.
  • Leave locally purchased wood at the campsite for the next campers when you leave. 
  • Be aware of state and county firewood regulations before you go. Some states don’t allow you to bring firewood across their borders, and many counties restrict firewood movement out of the area.
A Deadly Borer

The emerald ash borer is most visible in the summer, when these iridescent, green beetles emerge. Less visible are the squirmy, pale larvae that tunnel beneath the tree’s surface and eat away at the specialized inner bark tissue that carries nutrients — especially sugar — to all parts of the tree. But the damage emerald ash borers cause is hard to miss: Infested trees lose their leaves and will eventually die.

Indeed, the threat posed by the emerald ash borer is immense, with 7 billion trees across the United States at risk. None of the major North American ash species can combat the borer’s larvae. When you move firewood, you risk starting a new infestation of this destructive pest.

A Rogues' Gallery

The emerald ash borer is not alone in threatening to destroy America’s forests and suburban trees. Other invasive species that can be spread through transported firewood include:

  • The Asian longhorned beetle, which causes similar damage on maples, boxelders, horsechestnuts, buckeyes, willows, elms, birch and ash.
  • The European gypsy moth, which lays its eggs on any available surface, including firewood; the caterpillars can devour 500 different species of trees and shrubs.
  • The sudden oak death pathogen, a disease that has already spread across coastal California and up into Oregon.
  • The Gold-spotted oak borer, a small beetle killing oaks in southern California- an environment already severely stressed by drought and wildfire.
  • Other pests such as Beech bark disease and redbay wilt, as well as the hemlock woolly adelgid pathogen all have used firewood as a way to travel to uninfected areas.

Today, no matter where you live or camp, transporting forest insects and diseases is a risk. And while it’s true that these invasive species can spread slowly over time through natural means, the incidental transport of a bug into a new environment with plenty of food and little competition can cause unpredictable outbreaks anywhere in the nation or even the world.

Through individual actions, we can protect America’s trees and the health of our citizens, and secure the quality of life we have come to enjoy thanks to our forests. 

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