Wood scraps- trash, or kindling?

Woodworkers all over the world use various types of hard and softwoods, and we recently got an excellent question about some small woodworking scraps…


Dear Don't Move Firewood,


I am a hobbiest furniture builder in central PA, and have a large pile of kiln-dried oak and cherry cutoffs and scrap that I'd like to get rid of. These are clean, dry, bark free pieces ranging from shaving size to a few inches/side, and they have been stored indoors since coming out of the hardwood supplier's kiln.


One option that I've used in the past is to put them out with the trash (my local hauler takes them away for no additional charge).  I presume they just end up in the landfill, destined to sit there for a very long time, since the low moisture content will inhibit decay.  They will also allow me to compost the waste, for a significant fee.


Alternatively, I've considered using them as kindling during my next camping trip, but apparently that may be running afoul of firewood transportation laws.  It seems a shame to waste the energy stored in this wood by throwing it away, but I have no viable means of burning it on-site.  What's your take on the situation?




Chad in Pennsylvania


Dear Chad,


Your question perplexed me at first, because you are correct to think that kiln dried, bark free, and stored indoors wood poses no risk if you use it as kindling on a camping trip- but you are also correct that it'd be a shame to run afoul of laws that might be too broad for your exact situation. So I asked a colleague in Pennsylvania to chime in- I wanted the real answer. Here's what Donald Eggen, Forest Health Manager for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, has to say;


There are no regulations regarding the movement of this type of wood within Pennsylvania.  He can therefore use the material for firewood within the borders of Pennsylvania.  However, if he wished to transport the wood across a state line to use as firewood in another state, he would have to check with that state's State Plant Regulatory Official to determine if he could transport the material into that state. 


I can guess that most people aren't likely to call a State Plant Regulatory Official just to move some kindling across state lines. But the reality is that you could be hit with a fine if you are violating any laws, or you could have it confiscated (where they'd throw it away, which is a waste as you said). Pennsylvania is a pretty darn big state, so instead, I'd just suggest using all that wood on in-state trips!


And one last thing- the movement of raw wood by hobby woodworkers has been linked in the past to outbreaks of forest pests. I'd like to just applaud you for buying kiln dried stock and storing it indoors. Those two steps minimize the risk of accidental pest movement on wood stock, and I'm glad that's how you operate.


Thanks for asking!

Maple Syrup Industry at risk!

Perhaps no single food is as threatened by forest pests as is Maple Syrup. Today, Don't Move Firewood put out a press release to talk about how moving firewood threatens this delicious traditional food;


U.S. Maple Syrup Industry at Risk


The Asian longhorned beetle could put an end to an American staple at the breakfast table


ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 22, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — As winter begins to wane, the maple sugaring season begins in the Northeast and the Midwest. The centuries-old tradition of tapping maple trees for sap to make syrup is threatened by the spread of the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB), which kills maple trees and travels on infested firewood. Because these beetles are not native to this continent, they have no effective natural predators, and native trees have no resistance to their tunneling and chewing. 


ALB infestations have occurred in several maple syrup-producing states. The most recent infestation, which threatens the Midwest, was found in June 2011 near Cincinnati, Ohio. Eradication efforts are underway, including the tragic but necessary removal of many mature maple trees. The infestation of ALB discovered in the Worcester, MA area in August 2008 poses a particularly serious threat to New England's maples, because of the large area the beetles had infested before being discovered. Earlier infestations of the beetle were found in both New York and New Jersey, but the beetle is believed to be under control in those two states. Throughout the region, state officials are vigilant for new infestations.


"Because some people don't realize that moving firewood can spread this tree-killing beetle, more infestations may be discovered in other cities and towns in maple-producing areas," said Leigh Greenwood, Don't Move Firewood campaign manager, The Nature Conservancy. "Once an infestation occurs, the only way to stop the Asian longhorned beetle's spread is to cut down all the infested and host trees – impacting property owners and local communities and posing a huge threat to the maple syrup industry."


While these pests cannot move far on their own, when people move firewood that harbors them, they unwittingly enable these pests to start an infestation far from their current range. A visual inspection cannot easily detect these pests since they can be hidden in the layers of wood beneath the bark.


"It might seem like a good idea to obtain some firewood from another area, or to take along firewood when going camping, but just one log can start a new infestation of the Asian longhorned beetle or other tree-killing pests," said Greenwood. "By buying locally harvested wood, people can help protect their trees by not risking the accidental movement of insects and diseases that can affect entire forests."


"Ongoing efforts in awareness and education about invasive insects and the Don't Move Firewood message are very important. We want to stress as an industry that the potential loss from Asian longhorned beetle will far exceed the upfront costs of prevention," said Dave Chapeskie, executive director of the International Maple Syrup Institute. "Other invasive insects like the emerald ash borer threaten the integrity of the sugar bush, even if they don't directly threaten the sugar maples."


Following are tips from the Don't Move Firewood campaign:

  • Obtain firewood near the location where you will burn it – that means the wood was cut in a nearby forest, in the same county, or a maximum of 50 miles from where you'll have your fire.
  • Don't be tempted to bring firewood home just because the wood looks clean and healthy. It could still harbor tiny insect eggs or microscopic fungal spores that could 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.
  • Take care to respect all state and local regulations on firewood movement – some areas are subject to serious fines for violations. For more information, visit your state agricultural department's web site: https://www.rma.usda.gov/other/stateag.html.
  • Tell your friends and others about the risks of moving firewood – no one wants to be responsible for starting a new pest infestation.


To learn more about how to prevent forest pests from destroying forests, log onto www.dontmovefirewood.org.


The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 18 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 117 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Visit us on the Web at www.nature.org.

Channeling firewood anger

We got a particularly angry and frustrated entry in the Don't Move Firewood mailbox last week, which has been paraphrased below for clarity.


Dear Don't Move Firewood


I note the sign — and also note that in my twice a week trips to and from Salem, NH — that there is at least ONE sometimes TWO or more vehicles … driving in front of me across the NH/ME bridge, and never even a slow down — ignoring the sign.


… They don't care. … There is NEVER anyone there to pull them over or stop the firewood from coming INTO THE STATE.


…When is anyone going to actually STOP them and fine them and take that illegal firewood and burn it ?


… I NEVER see firewood going SOUTH across the ME/NH bridge…



Frustrated in New England


Dear Frustrated,


I completely agree that it is extremely annoying to see people driving around with firewood, ignoring the signs, potentially moving pests. Depending on how far they are going, and what state(s) they are in, they could be breaking some major laws and subject to fines. But clearly, much like many people that speed aren't given tickets, many people that move firewood are not caught.


I want to directly address your actual question. "When is anyone going to actually STOP them and fine them and take that illegal firewood and burn it?" And the answer is that states in your area, most notably Maine, are doing that more and more, at their borders. I asked Ann Gibbs, Maine State Horticulturalist, to sum up what Maine does to stop firewood at the border, and here was her response;


The Maine Forest Service within the Maine Department of Conservation has conducted firewood exchanges during Memorial Day (2011), Labor Day and Columbus Day (2010) weekends for the past 2 years.  Maine instituted a ban on untreated out of state firewood in 2010 and these firewood exchanges allow folks from other states to exchange the banned firewood for local firewood.  Forest rangers conduct these exchanges at a rest area on the NH border which have been educational at this point, but they will have the legal authority to enforce the ban in the near future. 


So as one example, Maine is doing exactly what you would hope- using key times of the year to stop people and exchange firewood.


And lastly, there is one big thing that YOU can do as a citizen; call or email your state department of agriculture and tell them that you are deeply concerned by firewood that you are seeing being moved in and out of the state. Tell they you think they should consider firewood check stations, and greater outreach programs. Be vocal on your opinions- but remember, budgets are tough, so the agency you call might indeed want to do more work but simply not be able to afford it.


Good luck- and please, channel those frustrations into action! Call your county extension, state department of agriculture, or other group today and tell them that you want more steps taken to slow the spread of pests!


Our longest question ever, part one

Time for a two part installment series at Dear Don’t Move Firewood, our occasional advice column.

Dear Don’t Move Firewood,

I am concerned about this focus on firewood.  Shouldn’t we be at least as concerned about wood packaging materials shipped from other countries?  What about the giant lumber industry that hauls huge truckloads of wood around?  Trucking huge numbers of Christmas trees out of state for sale is also a pretty big business in the Pacific Northwest each year.  Has there been any serious examination of the potential for harm from these activities? … (to be continued)



Dear Genny,

Let’s break it down, because there is so much good stuff in here.

  • Shouldn’t we be at least as concerned about wood packaging materials shipped from other countries?
  • Yes! Of course! That’s one of the primary pathways for pests to enter the US, Canada, and Mexico. And that’s why Don’t Move Firewood’s parent group, the Continental Dialogue, does extensive work on the issue of proper treatment of wood packaging. But here’s the thing; that’s not an issue for large scale public engagement and education, which is what Don’t Move Firewood does. We have our speciality, our piece of the puzzle. Other people dedicate their effort to solid wood packaging standards.
  • What about the giant lumber industry that hauls huge truckloads of wood around?
  • Again, Yes! Of course pests can spread in this way. What is interesting is that by and large, natural forests are not the point of initial introduction for most pests. Instead, urban and near-urban areas are more likely. Lumber industry relies mostly on natural, somewhat distant from cities, stands of trees. So just as a risk potential, the likelyhood for spread is lower. Additionally, the timber industry has various levels of inspection, standards, and certifications depending on the product, company, etc. So while this isn’t a perfect system, there are aspects in place that further mitigate risk. Lastly, again, this isn’t an issue that everyday citizens can best spend their time engaging with. Don’t Move Firewood wants to help the average person do their part, and not ask them to do comparitively futile things for a single person to engage with (like confront the timber industry on their harvest practices).
  • Has there been any serious examination of the potential for harm from (christmas tree farming) activities?
  • Every year, here at Don’t Move Firewood we talk about christmas trees. Our message (which you can see here) is that you should either cut down your own local tree, or buy from a reputable dealer that is in compliance with State Department of Agriculture and/or USDA APHIS standards. Which is to say, buy from a well known and legal dealer, not a guy selling trees on the side of the highway. Lastly, dispose of your trees either in municipal composting, or in the trash (landfill) and never put them in your backyard brush pile. In the off chance that pests are in those discarded Xmas trees, you want them isolated from your backyard trees- not sitting underneath them all spring and summer.

For the rest of the questions, I will return tomorrow!