2008-05-22 / News

Use local firewood to prevent insect infestations

As campers and other vacationers prepare for their upcoming holidays, the state's Department of Environmental Management, and colleagues from throughout New England, are urging them to refrain from transporting firewood to and from other areas, and to use, instead, only local firewood at their campsites and summer cottages.

At a regional firewood forum held this spring, environmental officials from throughout New England met with U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture officials to discuss the increasing danger from invasive species and the role that movement of firewood plays in forest devastation, and urge the public to take precautions.

Tree-eating, non-native, insects can be transported in firewood, with the potential to cause damage costing millions of dollars in clean-up, eradication, and replanting efforts. In fact, the issue of invasive species is one of the forest service's top four threats. The financial impact from invasive species infestations in the United States has been estimated at $138 billion per year in total economic damages and associated control costs.

There are many species of insects and diseases that can be spread through the movement of firewood, including emerald ash borer, Asian longhorn beetle, and Sirex woodwasps, none of which are currently found in Rhode Island. Emerald ash borer, first detected in North America near Detroit in 2002, has since killed more than 25 million ash trees in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia. More than 75 percent of emerald ash borer infestation sites with known origins were the result of firewood movement.

Catherine Sparks, Chief of DEM's Division of Forest Environment says, "Rhode Islanders should be aware that they can carry local infestations of gypsy moth eggs and hemlock woolly adelgid in their own firewood, and should not transport it elsewhere. When potentially infested firewood is moved, any pests that emerge can seriously threaten the trees in the new community.

"You can't tell just by looking at it whether or not a log is infested," Sparks adds. "Insects and diseases can be in or underneath the bark of infested logs, as well as on it."

Although many people wouldn't think to bring firewood from home to their summer destination, a 2006 survey of New Hampshire campers indicated that about half came from out-of-state, and more than 40 percent hauled their firewood from home.

"We are hoping that as more and more people get the message, they will willingly leave firewood at home, and buy it where they plan to burn it," says Sparks.

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