Don’t Move Firewood

If you’ve seen the traffic control signs above the highways in Massachusetts that say “Don’t Move Firewood” and were wondering why (or more importantly, what to do about it), you’ve come to the right place.

Background

Trees have some similarities to humans in that they can catch disease and be affected by bugs/pests. There are pests in our ecosystems that are native and natural to the area and there are other things that keep them in check. These checks and balances include such things as: predators, herbivores, diseases, parasites, and other organisms competing for the same resources and limiting environmental factors.

The problem is that there are some pests that are NOT native to this area, and so – have no natural checks and balances to keep them under control. Two particularly nasty examples are the asian longhorned beetle (ALB), and the emerald ash borer (EAB). As the name suggests, these little buggers came from Asia. They arrived in infected pallets and crates commonly used for overseas shipping.

Problem

What makes them nasty to our area here in Massachusetts is:

  • There are no natural controls
  • They love maple trees (ash and elm for the EAB)

These pests and diseases can’t move far on their own, but when you take a tree and turn it into firewood, it poses a problem. Transportation. The delivery radius for my business is 20 miles, but there are some firewood guys that travel even longer distances. This allows these pests and diseases to spread much further than they would be able to naturally.

Impact

ALB has the potential to wipe out up to 1/3 of all the trees that you see. Not just here in Massachusetts, but in the entire northeast. (and New Jersey and New York). Imagine 1 out of every 3 trees gone. The maple syrup industry could be wiped out, logging and building industries would be affected. Even tourism to New Hamshire and parts of Massachusetts, known for their bright and colorful fall season, could be wiped out. Oh yeah, did I mention firewood? The economic impact estimated at 700 billion dollars nationwide.

The worst part is that it’s already happening. The city of Worcester is battling an infestation that is suspected to be about 12 years old, but they are fighting back. They're making the ultimate sacrifice - cutting down over 25,000 trees (and spending about $50 million state/federal), to protect trees throughout the northeast. There was also detection of ALB in Jamaica Plain at the Faulkner Hospital. 6 infested trees were removes, and a 1.5 mile restricted area has been set up. No wood is to be removed from the area.

How to help

Back to that sign above you on the highway… There are a few things you can do to help. One is not buying firewood from over 10 miles away from it’s source. If you are buying seasoned wood, this means buying VERY locally to your home (or wherever you plan on burning). If you are going camping, do not bring firewood with you.

And lastly, there is one other way to prevent the spread of these pests, and that is buying only kiln-dried firewood. The kiln drying process requires a temperature of 220F for over 30 hours. (usually 2 days). This kills any pests that might be lingering in the firewood, making it safe for shipment. Because we can create firewood in a kiln “on-demand” we do not have to maintain huge stockpiles of wood that could then get re-infected later. It’s a nice answer to a potentially devastating problem. We are doing our part here at TinderPro to make sure that we do not spread these pests. All of our wood is kiln-dried. It burns better and is bug free.

Everyone, this is really important. Whichever way you choose to buy your firewood (locally, or kiln-dried) please consider our environment when buying.


This article serves as a primer on the subject for my customers and is not meant as a complete reference. If you would like more education on not moving firewood, please visit http://www.dontmovefirewood.org.

Sources used for this article:
http://www.areaivenvirothon.org/2009/AquaticsFiles/InvasiveSpecies.pdf
http://www.dontmovefirewood.org/gallery-of-pests/asian-long-horned-beetl...
http://www.dontmovefirewood.org/gallery-of-pests/emerald-ash-borer.html
http://www.cityofboston.gov/news/default.aspx?id=4682