Monday, November 5, 2012

Don’t Move Firewood!

Photo: Larry Grand
With a chill in the air and leaves turning brilliant colors here in Raleigh, our thoughts turn to cozy firesides, big bonfires, and warm campfires after a long day’s hike. With this in mind, we asked Rob Trickel of the North Carolina Forest Service for a timely reminder about the dangers of moving firewood. 

Invasive Pests and Firewood Movement

Non-native invasive forest pathogens and insect species have potential to cause great harm to North Carolina’s forests and landscapes.  The fungus that causes laurel wilt is killing redbays and swampbays in the Coastal Plain and we think it may also devastate sassafras across the state.  Other invasive diseases and insects that have the potential to cause great harm to walnuts (thousand cankers disease), ash (emerald ash borer), and a variety of hardwoods (gypsy moth) are found in counties in Tennessee and Virginia adjacent to our state (see current invasive monitoring map).  In addition, Asian longhorn beetle is devastating a wide variety of hardwood tree species in the Northeast and Midwest, and has the potential to do the same here.   All of these pests have the following in common:  they move naturally from place to place at a very slow rate, but can be spread rapidly if moved in firewood.

Emerald Ash Borer Galleries in firewood. Photo: Troy Kimoto, Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Moving firewood can introduce invasive pests to new ecosystems, where they can cause ecological, economical, and social problems in our forests.  In response to the rapid spread of emerald ash borer via firewood, some states have even enacted laws regulating the movement of firewood to slow the spread of invasive species.  North Carolina is approaching the problem with public awareness and education campaigns and has joined with other southeastern states to promote the use of local firewood or firewood that has been treated or certified to be pest-free.  

As part of the effort, the Changing Roles program of the USDA-Forest Service has developed two fact sheets about firewood movement as a means of spreading invasive species to new areas. These fact sheets help equip our partners who work with various audiences (consumers and producers of firewood) with information to combat the spread of invasive pests.

Fact Sheet 5.4 (Invasive Species and Firewood Movement) is firewood/invasive species 101 and covers:  What is firewood?  What types of invasive pests are transported in firewood? Why is the movement of firewood a pathway for the spread of invasive pests? What are the ecological, economical and social effects of invasive pests?  

Fact Sheet 5.5 (Preventing Firewood Movement) concentrates on how to engage a variety of audiences on firewood issues including:  How do we (foresters, extension staff, natural resource professionals) communicate with and engage different audiences on this important topic? How do we work with homeowners and outdoor enthusiasts (also parks and campground staff, arborists and green industry professionals, wood processors and producers) to combat the spread of invasive pests?  How is the movement of firewood regulated? And, where can I find more information about preventing firewood movement?

You can find more information about firewood movement and forest health, excellent images of the insects and diseases that can be spread by moving firewood, some very entertaining videos at   

Photo: Rob Trickel
Prepared by Rob Trickel, Forest Health Branch Head, North Carolina Forest Service