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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Firewood and Forest Pests

It's the time of year when we're all scrambling for a little  more firewood because we didn't get quite enough over the summer. I always try to get my wood as close as possible to my home, if not off my own lot, but then again, I live in central Pennsylvania where wood is everywhere.  Many of you folks live the cozy life in cities made famous by pro sports franchises (ok, I'm a little jealous), and you need to go a ways if you buy or collect a large amount of firewood.

If you do, the USDA APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) wants you to limit your firewood transportation to a maximum of fifty miles. So much so, that they made this video just for you...


...at least, they made it for somebody. And lest you laugh, consider that this video has won an award! From the website of The Nature Conservancy:
"As fall settles in across the country, cords of wood are being stacked and fireplaces, wood burning stoves and campfires are ablaze. There’s a romance to this season, but did you know that moving firewood long distances can spread invasive insects that kill trees?
The Nature Conservancy’s Don’t Move Firewood campaign is raising awareness about this important—and costly—issue. Across the country, invasive insects and diseases like the Asian longhorned beetle, emerald ash borer, and sudden oak death are destroying street trees and forests.
The Conservancy has created numerous humorous videos to help spread the word. Most recently, Super Rangers and the Legion of Bugs–an animated video featuring a Legion of Bugs’ plot to overtake the nation’s forests – won a Yosemite Film Festival Sierra Award for Animation. The video, which warns about the dangers of moving firewood, fits with the film festival’s mission to “recognize and award progressive, eye-opening, independent cinema and writing of all genres and to foster an appreciation and understanding toward the preservation and majesty of our natural world.”
Invasive insects can be devastating for communities. In Worcester, Mass. an infestation of Asian longhorned beetle discovered in 2008 required the removal of 30,000 of the city’s street trees. In 15 states across the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic region, more than 20 million ash trees have been killed by the emerald ash borer.
Not only do these tree-killing insects destroy the shade and beauty of our communities, but they are adding up to major damage to our wallets. A recent study funded by the Conservancy estimates that the costs of damages associated with these pest infestations in both urban and rural areas are nearly $1.7 billion in local government expenditures and approximately $830 million in lost residential property values, totaling more than $2.5 billion dollars annually. Many of the insects featured in this study, including the emerald ash borer and gypsy moth, are known to move frequently on infested firewood. 
Do Your Part This Fall and Winter
Follow these tips from the Don’t Move Firewood campaign:
  • Obtain firewood near the location where you will burn it – no more than 50 miles from where you'll have your fire.
  • Don’t be tempted to get firewood from a remote location just because the wood looks clean and healthy. It could still harbor tiny insect eggs or microscopic fungal spores that can start a new and deadly infestation of forest pests.
  • Aged or seasoned wood is not considered safe to move, but commercially kiln-dried wood is a good option if you must transport firewood.
  • If you have already moved firewood, and you need to dispose of it safely, burn it soon and completely. Make sure to rake the storage area carefully and also burn the debris. In the future, buy from a local source.
  • Tell your friends and others about the risks of moving firewood – no one wants to be responsible for starting a new pest infestation."
- The Nature Conservancy 
This world of invasive pest monitoring and control is one that governments all over the world take seriously. Next post, I'll share how our research at Penn State with wooden pallet systems led to our attending a meeting in Canberra, Australia...and how folks in that part of the world deal with the issue.

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