The final big travel weekend of the summer has come and gone but great concern remains about the movement of firewood and that practice?s effect on the environment.
Transporting such wood is the primary means by which many highly destructive diseases and insects can be moved in or out of otherwise contained areas by unwary, well-meaning citizens. Because of that, state entomologist Bob Waltz urges people to burn only local firewood and to break the habit of transporting it across state and even county lines.
"When you move firewood, you move everything that's in it," Waltz said. "This could include emerald ash borers, gypsy moths, Asian longhorn beetles, beech bark disease, and numerous other pests and diseases that otherwise would have a very difficult time spreading.
"In some cases, such as with emerald ash borer, were it not for people moving firewood, the insect could advance only about a half-mile per year; with people transporting firewood, these things can move as far as a vehicle can take them and will thrive anywhere that provides the right host."
The emerald ash borer, for instance, has been found in Indiana in St. Joseph, LaGrange, Steuben, Randolph, Huntington, Hamilton, Marion, Adams, and, most recently, White counties. Large infestations are present in Michigan, Ohio and Canada. Two recent infestations have been found in Illinois, one within Chicago and one west of Chicago.
Waltz said the EAB has the potential to kill every ash tree in North America. Ash is one of the most abundant trees in country.
Waltz said that as people close camps and start burning fires at their residences as the weather cools, they should resist the temptation to take leftover firewood home for the winter because of what might be hitching a ride. With the various hunting seasons coming up, hunters should commit to not carry firewood away from their home counties to campsites, because of the risk of moving pests.
The state entomologist said that if people absolutely must move firewood, where there are no quarantines restricting the practice, they should be sure to burn all that they move. He said that firewood that is left at a camp until spring poses the greatest threat of hosting diseases that could damage the forest.
"Hunters, campers and anyone else who uses firewood should only use what's available locally, without exception," Waltz said. "Transporting firewood is a hard habit to break but if we don't stop, we are going to lose many forests and with them a lot of great places to camp, hunt and relax."
Detailed information on quarantines in effect can be found at the following Web sites: