Reducing Your Risk: The Firewood Factor
By Liz Jackson
One of the biggest risks to our Indiana woodlands is the threat of invasive forest pests and diseases. This is not a new problem – you know the story of the once great American chestnut and Elm decimated by disease. But with increasing global trade and travel, the number of new forest pest introductions continues to rise. Since 2003 alone, 28 new tree-killing pests have been detected in the country.1 Figure 1 shows that Indiana is at the higher range of the pest problem.
What is the cost of these pests to our woodlands? Wood-boring insects impose the highest costs. Estimates include $1.7 billion per year in local government expenditures for tree removal and replacement. Property owners also incur $1.5 billion per year in losses for removing trees and reductions in residential property value, not to mention the billions in losses of timber value to the wood products industry.1, 2 Just as important is the cost to the environment, affecting wildlife, water, recreation and other benefits.
Firewood is Transportation
There are an alarming number of insects that reside within dead and live wood. In a study in Michigan travelers crossing the Mackinac Island Bridge were asked to surrender their firewood and it was inspected by researchers for the presence of bark- and wood-boring insects. Of the 1,045 pieces of firewood examined, live borers were found on 23% of the pieces and another 41% had evidence of previous borer infestation from seven different insect families.3
The Michigan study reminds us that there is one important way that people can minimize the risk of introducing pests – DON”T MOVE FIREWOOD. This is a critical means that wood boring insects travel the country. New infestations are more often tied to human movement of wood than any other factor.
“Buy It Where You Burn It”
Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has implemented firewood rules to minimize the threat to our public lands. You can bring firewood into a state park, reservoir, state forest or state fish and wildlife area if: 4
• It is kiln-dried scrap lumber.
• It is from your home or other location in Indiana and has the bark removed. (Ideally, 1/2 inch of sapwood beneath the bark will also be removed.)
• It is purchased from a department store, grocery store, gas station, etc. and bears a USDA compliance stamp.
• It is purchased from a local firewood vendor outside the property and has a state compliance stamp with it. To find a list of the vendors who have a state compliance agreement, see http://www.in.gov/dnr/entomolo/files/ep-CA_firewood.pdf.
• It is purchased from the property campstore or on-site firewood vendor and has a state compliance stamp.
If you have questions about the state’s firewood rules, contact firewood@dnr.IN.gov.
What About Private Property?
There are no universal state or federal regulations governing the movement of firewood on private property but quarantines exist for specific pests. In Indiana due to Emerald Ash Borer hardwood firewood cannot be moved from quarantined areas to non-quarantined areas, but can be moved within quarantined areas. Other pests in other states have led to firewood restrictions there as well. But firewood quarantines are ever-changing and hard to keep up with. For the sake of our public and private woodlands it is in our best interest to adopt practices to reduce our risk.
The website www.dontmovefirewood.org has recommendations:
• Buy firewood near where you will burn it- a good rule of thumb is only using wood that was cut within 50 miles of where you’ll have your fire.
• Wood that looks clean and healthy can still have tiny insect eggs, or microscopic fungi spores, that will start a new and deadly infestation. Always leave it at home, even if you think the firewood looks fine.
• Aged or seasoned wood is still not safe. Just because it is dry doesn’t mean that bugs can’t crawl onto it!
• Tell your friends not to bring wood with them- everyone needs to know that they should not move firewood.
Some of the most concerning pests have not yet reached Indiana. For example, Gold spotted oak borer and sudden oak death are causing widespread oak mortality on the West coast and would devastate our oak-dominated Hoosier forests.
Asian long horned beetle (ALB), currently in the Cincinnati area, feeds on over 30 species, including maple. ALB control efforts are extreme and require cutting down all host trees within vicinity of the pest. Clermont County, Ohio alone has removed over 49,000 trees to date.
As quarantines are regularly changing and to minimize the risk to your woodlands of “the next pest” your best bet is to not move firewood to or from your own property, or at a minimum not beyond your township or county. See www.dontmovefirewood.org for more resources.
1. Fading Forest III: American Forests What Choice Will We Make? FT Campbell, SE Schlarbaum, May 2014. http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/habitats/forests/fading-forests-3-complete-report.pdf
2. Aukema, J.E., et al. 2011. Economic impacts of non-native forest insects in the continental United States. PLoS One 6(9):e24587.
3. Haack, R.A., et al. Incidence of Bark- and Wood-Boring Insects in Firewood: A Survey at Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge. Journal of Economic Entomology 103(5):1682-92.
4. Indiana DNR Firewood Rules, http://www.in.gov/dnr/entomolo/6413.htm. Accessed June 5, 2015.
5. Liebhold, A.M., et al. 2013. A highly aggregated geographical distribution of forest pest invasions in the USA. Diversity and Distributions. (2013) 1-9.
Figure 1. Number of non-native pests found by county (reprinted with permission from A. Liebhold). 5
Liz Jackson is the Executive Director of the Indiana Forestry & Woodland Owners Association. IFWOA, www.ifwoa.org, is a nonprofit organization with the goal of promoting good stewardship of Indiana woodlands.