Transporting Firewood Leads to Unintended Consequences

by Marcia Anderson

A colleague of mine who lives in Maine told me she wanted to bring firewood from her cordwood pile at home into a New Hampshire campground. Although she lives .2 miles from the border with New Hampshire, close enough that an ant’s pace would get you there in a day, restrictions on transporting firewood meant she had to wait and buy wood for $5 a bundle in New Hampshire.

Camping firewood on the move. Photo: © L. Greenwood; The Nature Conservancy

Camping firewood on the move.
Photo: © L. Greenwood; The Nature Conservancy

Firewood has historically been moved with little consideration of the pests it might harbor. However, the issue is getting increasing attention. This year, the US Department of Agriculture and several states put out urgent pleas to avoid transporting firewood.

Over the past 15 years, exotic insects like the Asian longhorned beetle, emerald ash borer and hemlock woolly adelgid have killed millions of trees in the United States. Once established in new areas, these pests can quickly kill trees forests, parks, towns and campgrounds. (see related blog).

Firewood is an especially troublesome means by which pests are spread. According to USDA, the best preventative measure to protect forests from these pests is by limiting the movement of infested materials, including firewood.

Firewood is frequently moved long distances by campers and retailers. Not surprisingly, pest infestations are showing up around campgrounds and highway rest areas. In many states, all trees used as firewood are now regulated since they have the potential to harbor invasive insects and diseases.

Thirty states have imposed various levels of quarantine as a result of the emerald ash borer. Regulations vary by state, but generally include restrictions on importing firewood, movement of firewood within the state, and transportation of firewood into state, local and federal parks. In New England, the emerald ash borer was detected in Connecticut,

Woodpile Photo: © L. Greenwood; The Nature Conservancy

Woodpile
Photo: © L. Greenwood; The Nature Conservancy

Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, along with neighboring NY and Canada and all have various levels of wood quarantine in place. For example, the border was confirmed in all eight Connecticut counties so now that state has restrictions on the movement of all hardwood firewood. People who move firewood must have a document stating the origin and destination of the firewood. Some states have regulations that do not allow wood to be transported beyond a 50-mile radius of a restricted zone. A restricted zone is the quarantine of an infested area that prohibits the movement of logs and firewood outside of the zone. Check USDA’s quarantine map before you move firewood, even to another town. Because EAB does not travel far on its own, limiting human transportation of infested material will slow its spread.

It is recommended to use locally-sourced firewood, or firewood that has verified as pest free. Firewood producers and dealers must provide documentation on the source of their firewood. Seasoned wood may still have insects that can survive for many months. Only firewood heat-treated, kiln-dried at 160° F for at least 75 minutes can be brought into parks, and only with documentation.

RVs and other vehicles that have been parked for long periods can also harbor tree pests and their eggs. Take the time to check your vehicle, especially the wheel wells, and remove any insects. You can also wash down your camper between trips to help remove any hitchhiking pests.

What is at risk from transporting these pests? The trees in your backyard, along your streets, and in your neighborhood, along with the wildlife that depends on them. Jobs in the timber and forestry industries and manufacturing sector, things like flooring, cabinets, pallets, and even baseball bats, are also impacted. Cities and towns then have to pay to remove the hazardous trees killed by pests.

Although my colleague was frustrated she could not bring her own wood, the regulations are meant to protect all of us and our environment. So do your part to help sustain the health of our great forest resources and neighborhood trees.

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Marcia Anderson, who has a doctorate in environmental management, works with EPA’s headquarters on issues related to pest management in schools. She formerly worked in pesticides for EPA Region 2 and has a home in Lyman, Maine

For Connecticut certificate to transport wood: http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2697&q=508886

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