(Idaho Department of Lands Press Release, April 13, 2023)
Coeur d’Alene – With winter finally departing Idaho, many will begin to enjoy Idaho’s wondrous outdoors and sit around campfires. It is important to know that firewood moved from another area to where you are camping poses a risk to the health of our forests.
Invasive insects and diseases can hitch rides on and in firewood, spreading infection from where the wood was cut to where you camp. Even if you don’t see any pests with your naked eye, that doesn’t mean their tiny eggs or disease microbes aren’t there. By transporting firewood long distances, we may unintentionally be giving an invasive pest a free ride to a new area.
A good rule of thumb is to only use and burn wood cut or gathered 50 miles or less from where you build your campfire. Other options include:
- Buy it where you burn it, as long as the wood is harvested locally
- Gather firewood on site when permitted
- Use firewood that is heat treated to kill bugs and pathogens (which is different than kiln dried)
There are no standards for kiln dried wood and it still carries a risk of transporting invasive critters. The makers of heat treated firewood hold a legal compliance agreement that the firewood is heated to a sufficient core temperature and for a certain amount of time. The majority of the time, heat treated firewood is considered OK to move if it is properly labeled.
“Why can non-native insects and diseases be so much worse than the native ones?” asked Idaho State Forester Craig Foss rhetorically. “Native trees have evolved defenses against the insects and diseases that they’ve been living with for thousands of years. Likewise, native predators eat native insects, and that can help keep their numbers in check. Sometimes, non-native insects and diseases arrive in a new area and have no predators in their new homes, and the trees have not evolved effective defenses against them.”
When foreign insects or diseases don’t have anything stopping them, they can spiral out of control, killing trees in their wake.
If you already brought wood from outside the area, what should you do with it? Burn all the wood in your campfires as soon as possible and don’t transport it back home. If you are unable to burn it all, check with a campground host or neighboring camper to see if they can finish burning the wood. Don’t just leave it in your campsite where someone might pick it up and transport it somewhere else.
Invasive pests can turn a beautiful place we enjoy into a dead and dying forest, putting our forests and communities at a greater risk for wildfire,” concluded Foss. Please do your part to protect our forests.