Invasive pests can lurk in firewood

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October is one of the most popular times of the year to go camping in New York State, and, experts say, with this popular outdoor activity it is important for campers to know the risks of firewood.

While most are aware of the dangers of unattended or poorly tended campfires for fire safety, forest fires aren’t the only way forests can be damaged by campfires. Invasive species, especially insects, can live in firewood for long periods of time and emerge to wreak havoc on their surroundings. 

The St. Lawrence Eastern Lake Ontario Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (SLELO PRISM), part of The Nature Conservancy, is working to spread the word about invasive pests that travel via firewood. Much like fire safety, safe firewood practices are simple to follow and are crucial to preventing and managing invasive pest populations.

Steps campers can take when choosing firewood:

  • Buy firewood where you plan to burn it;
  • Buy certified, heat-treated firewood; and 
  • Responsibly gather firewood on-site when permitted.  

It is nearly impossible to tell if firewood has harmful insects living inside. These insects and diseases can’t move far on their own, but when people move the firewood that the insects live on, they can travel hundreds of miles. New infestations destroy forests, property values, and cost huge sums of money to control.

Pests like emerald ash borer, Asian longhorned beetle, spotted lanternfly and many others can stay hidden in or on the wood for months at a time, even throughout brutal winters. 

Due to the prevalence of hitchhiker pests, many states and parks have rules to encourage the use of local and/or certified, heat-treated firewood. In New York State, it is against the law to move untreated firewood more than 50 miles from where it originated. Also, many parks and campgrounds sell firewood on site to avoid unnecessary transfer of infested firewood. 

More firewood tips:

  • Campers using firewood for the evening should buy or find it near their campground;
  • Keep firewood as near as possible to where it was found (within 50 miles); and
  • If you do need to travel with firewood, make sure to buy firewood that is labeled as certified, heat-treated firewood.

Firewood safety information is part of the SLELO PRISM ‘Pledge-to-Protect’ education initiative providing simple actions everyone can take to protect our lands and waters from invasive species. Sign up for the ‘Pledge-To-Protect’ online at iPledgeToProtect.org. At signup, select from five areas of action: Lands & Trails, Gardens, Forests, Waters and Community. Information is sent each month via email.  

More information on firewood safety in New York State can be found at https://bit.ly/NYFirewoodRegulations.



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