Care in handling firewood reduces the spread of harmful insects and diseases

The movement of firewood products can inadvertently relocate insects and diseases that can lead to the spread of agents causing death of yard trees and tree mortality in forested areas.

Michigan urban trees and forested areas have been home to insects and hosted diseases for as long their existence can be traced. More recently however, this activity has increased with a severity which is causing the loss of trees at a much more rapid rate then in the past. Many of the new outbreaks threatening trees have started near urban or recreational areas.

Concerned resource professionals including the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD) are asking anyone using firewood to be careful in moving wood to new locations. Although dead trees make attractive targets for firewood, landowners also need to understand that the agents that killed the tree might still be viable in the form of larva, egg and adult insects, or in the case of fungal disease, spores. When wood is moved to a new location, there is an opportunity for the pests to get started in adjacent trees and stands.

There is evidence that Dutch elm disease, emerald ash borer, oak wilt, gypsy moth and, it is suspected, beech bark disease have all spread more rapidly by firewood movement in Michigan. A report by the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture‘s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service serves as a thorough examination of the danger of moving firewood.

You can reduce the chance of impacting the health of adjacent stands and individual trees by reducing the movement of firewood, splitting it as soon as possible after cutting, and covering it tightly with plastic so the stack gets a chance to heat up. Once the bark loosens and begins to fall off the chance of problems spreading is reduced considerably.

It is legal to sell and transport firewood in Michigan however there are quarantines in place restricting the movement of hardwood firewood through and from some counties. It is suggested anyone interested in transporting firewood contact the MDARD to get the up to date quarantine information. MDARD provides an online state map showing quarantined counties impacted by emerald ash borer.

To be safe, buy and use firewood on site that has been locally produced and avoid moving firewood across county lines. Regulations regarding the movement of wood and wood products by the commercial timber industry are already in place but individuals also need to take care in moving firewood to help protect all of our urban and forest tree resources.

More on the issues of moving firewood and the dangers of invasive species can be found at http://dontmovefirewood.org/ and the Michigan State University (MSU) Extension website http://treedoctor.anr.msu.edu/.

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