S’mores, hot dogs and invasive species: Don’t move firewood for summer campouts

By on July 2, 2014

Ahhh … in case going outside into the sauna-like heat hasn’t reminded you, summer has officially arrived! Kids are out of school, meaning it’s a time to go to the pool, a time to relax and, for some families, a time to take a family vacation.  Many families may opt to explore the great outdoors and take their family camping — a great idea! But only a great idea if you leave the firewood at home.

Firewood may be hiding invasive insects and/or diseases and moving firewood may help them spread to uninfested areas.  This firewood was infested with the emerald ash borer, whose galleries can be seen if you peel the bark off.  Image: Troy Kimoto, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Bugwood.org.

Firewood may be hiding invasive insects and/or diseases and moving firewood may help them spread to uninfested areas. This firewood was infested with the emerald ash borer, whose galleries can be seen if you peel the bark off. Image: Troy Kimoto, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Bugwood.org.

Why is it so important that firewood not be transported from one place to another? The simple truth is that untreated firewood and other wood products can harbor invasive insects and diseases that could easily be spread long distances unknowingly. On their own, invasive species may only be able to spread a few miles each year. But if spread within firewood, the dispersal range is essentially unlimited.

Take, for example, the finding of the emerald ash borer in N.C. last year. Its occurrence in our state was not all that shocking, as infested ash were known to occur in Virginia just miles from where it’s been found in North Carolina. But several weeks after the finding in N.C., the emerald ash borer was found in Colorado, several hundred miles from the nearest known infestation. The best guess is that the beetle was accidentally transported to the new area in infested materials.

Not transporting firewood is the best way for you to protect the natural resources of this state from invasive species. There are several invasive species already in North Carolina that can spread to other parts of the state via firewood (e.g., emerald ash borer, walnut twig beetle, redbay ambrosia beetle, gypsy moth). And there are more in the United States that have not (yet) made it to our state, but could easily do so in infested wood products (e.g., Asian longhorned beetle, Sirex woodwasp).

So, what’s the best way to get firewood if you are planning a camping trip? If traveling long distances, it’s best to wait until you arrive at your destination to purchase or collect firewood (if allowed). You’ll actually be saving money in fuel by going this route, too (see a fuel calculator here). Many parks and campgrounds do not allow untreated firewood on the premises. Great Smoky Mountains National Park recently proposed a ban of all untreated firewood.  You can also purchase treated firewood, sold in bundles at many stores. These bundles should have a USDA stamp on them if the treatment process was certified. If firewood is untreated, it is generally recommended that it be burned no more than 50 miles of where it is cut.

So have fun if you go camping this summer, but do so in a way that will leave forests for generations of campers to come. For more information about moving firewood and the threat it poses to our natural resources, visit the Don’t Move Firewood website.

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