Outreach successes at North Carolina State Fair

Guest blog by Rob Trickel, North Carolina Forest Service, Forest Health Branch Head


Thousands of visitors to the North Carolina State Fair became walking billboards for the North Carolina Forest Service Don’t Move Firewood campaign this fall.  Each visitor to the Fair's Forest was given the opportunity to answer a scavenger hunt type quiz in the Forest Service’s tent; once they answered all the questions they received a red drawstring backpack with a “don’t move firewood” message on the back.

don't move firewood backpack

“As folks return home and use the backpack, they are spreading our Don’t Move Firewood message,” said Sara Thompson, Forest Health Specialist.  “In some cases these bags will travel across the state much like firewood does. The difference is there are no invasive pests in the bags like there could be with firewood.”

According to Thompson, the purpose of the quiz was to get people engaged and actively looking at the exhibits, where all the answers could be found.  While most of questions were related to forest health, there were a few thrown in to cover other programs offered through the N.C. Forest Service.

The quiz was given to individuals, families and small groups, some of whom worked together to get all the answers. Regardless of how many people it took to find the answers, everyone in the family or group who participated won a backpack if they wanted one.  Once the quiz was completed, they were turned in to a ranger who reviewed the answers and took the opportunity to have a teachable moment and speak with the participants before giving out the backpack.  The overwhelming majority of those that participated liked the quiz and said they learned a lot.  Many commented that they would have never guessed that firewood movement could have such consequences.  The N.C. Forest Service gave out approximately 6,000 backpacks during the 10 days of the fair.  Many of these backpacks, or walking billboards, spread to the message to an even larger audience of fairgoers throughout the mid-way.

The N.C. Forest Service decided to change the exhibits in the tent this year in the hopes of motivating visitors to be more engaged. 

“In past few years, people just walk through the forestry exhibit and maybe read a few items that catch their attention,” said Rob Trickel, N.C. Forest Service Forest Health Branch Head.  “The only ones who would really engage us were the ones who wanted to tell us a story about their land or ask a question about why their trees were dying.  This year, people were engaged, talked to us, asked questions—it was more fun than usual because we were busy all of the time.” 

Trickel reports that on one Saturday there were close to 30 people working in groups or individually on the “scavenger hunt” at the same time several times during the day—sometimes lined up 3 deep at a table or poster reading information. The popularity of this year’s program has prompted the N.C. Forest Service to consider having two “levels” of quiz’s next year, one similar in complexity to this year’s for most people and one very simple for younger kids or parents with small children.


What about moving Christmas trees?

Dear Don’t Move Firewood,

You say that we shouldn’t move firewood, but don’t Christmas trees move really far before they get to our house? What about that? Can’t that spread pests?

Yours, Concerned about Christmas

Dear Concerned,

Great question. Christmas trees are different from firewood in a few important ways. They are cut while alive- so they need to be very healthy, and they have different types of pest and movement concerns. Here’s a few common concerns, explained for you, or you can refer to our Holiday Greenery page for extensive information:

Real Christmas trees are usually grown in farms– where the tree farmers are highly motivated to grow and sell beautiful bug free trees, year after year. Otherwise they’ll go out of business! So Christmas trees are less likely than firewood to be infested with invasive insects.

Real Christmas trees are well regulated, with various industry regulations governing their safe movement and minimizing their forest pest risks. Much like we advise buying firewood that is locally grown or from a reputable dealer, you can source your christmas trees locally or buy from a well established reputable vendor, making your purchase safer and better.

Disposing if your Christmas tree properly is very important. Either bring it to a Christmas tree recycling program, or throw it out with your regular trash when needed. Don’t burn it in your fireplace (fire hazard) and don’t “put it out back” (pest and weed seed risks). Read our full Disposing of Your Christmas Tree blog on this topic if you want to learn more.

And finally, if you are considering a fake tree:

Real Christmas trees are better for your local economy and the environment. Real trees are usually from a tree farm nearby, or at most a few states away. Artificial trees are nearly always from overseas, and made from energy intensive colored plastics. Keeping your trees Made (Grown!) in the USA is a great choice.

What is a firewood quarantine?

When most people hear the word “Quarantine,” they think of isolating a person that’s sick with some dangerous, contagious disease. When we talk about a forest pest related quarantine, the underlying concept is the same– it is just that instead of not letting people move around, we’re often talking about not moving firewood around.


Quarantines that relate to forest pests can work two basic ways- (1) preventing potentially infested materials, like firewood, from moving out of an known infested area, or (2) preventatively designating areas where no potentially infested materials could be brought in at all. The official term for potentially contagious or infested materials (things like firewood, nursery trees, brush waste) is “regulated items,” and each forest pest has a different list of appropriate regulated items, according to how its specific life cycle works.


(1) Much like a human quarantine for a contagious illness keeps the infected person from exposing new groups of people to whatever they’ve got, the first kind of a forest pest quarantine keeps people from moving regulated items out of infested places and into uninfested locations where they could infest new groups of trees- like uninfested campgrounds, forests, or neighborhoods. In some cases, more than just firewood can spread forest pests, so a quarantine might include not just firewood, but also other regulated items like nursery trees (like emerald ash borer), or outdoor furniture (like spongy moth), or even outdoor potted plants (like imported fire ant.) One important caveat about quarantined areas is that while it might be technically legal to move materials from one side of a county or state to the other side, that action might still be spreading unwanted pests- so it is still not a good idea. Further, when it comes to forest pest quarantines, often the federal and state rules are different- and the more “strict” rules always apply first. For instance, even though both Western Massachusetts and the bottom half of New York are part of the large multistate quarantined region for emerald ash borer, due to New York State laws, it is still illegal for campers to bring untreated firewood from Western Massachusetts into New York State for their campfire.


(2) The second kind of quarantine is a more preventative measure, and it is called an External Quarantine. Instead of trying to keep current infestations in a confined area, an external quarantine is trying to preserve the health of the forests by blocking out any infested materials coming from elsewhere. For instance, Maine has an external quarantine that prohibits bringing any untreated firewood into the state of Maine, to protect their state’s very important timber resources from all possible forest pest threats.


For more information on the status of various forest pest quarantines in your area, please look up your state or province on our map.

Harness the Power of Birdwatchers!

Did you know that 20% of US residents identify themselves as a birdwatcher, bird lover, or birder? That’s a LOT of binocular wielding citizen scientists! Does that include… YOU?

Here at Don’t Move Firewood, we’d like to invite all the birdwatchers that participate in the Christmas Bird Count, Great Backyard Bird Count, or just everyday birding adventures, to take a few moments to inspect the trees that their birds depend on for signs of forest pests. The easiest thing to do is to look around for holes in trees- and we’ve made a special handout called the Birdwatcher’s Guide to Holes in Trees for just that purpose. Download the handout, read through it, and familiarize yourself with the three basic types of holes in trees- holes made by typical bird foraging, holes made by birds foraging on invasive insects, and holes made by the invasive insects themselves.

BUT WAIT! Are you a forest health professional?  Multiply your impact by reaching out to your local Audubon Society (or other birdwatching group) representative to get Holes in Trees handouts to each birder that they know! You can either choose to print out physical copies and provide them, or just email the PDF to various birding listservers. You are responsible for contacting and educating your local bird groups- and remember, they are usually volunteers, so please be respectful of their time and desire to help (or a lack thereof!).

Good luck, and keep an eye out for Holes In Trees!


Photo of emerald ash borer exit hole and woodpecker foraging hole, credit D. Cappaert

California’s 2014 Roadside Signs for Goldspotted Oak Borer

Guest blog by Kevin Turner, Goldspotted Oak Borer Program Coordinator, University of California Riverside


In the spring of 2014, the California Firewood Task Force was able to offer “year-end funds” to the Goldspotted Oak Borer (GSOB) Outreach Committee for a much awaited roadside sign project in Southern California.  Our multi-agency committee had conceived of the idea of using roadside signs to warn the populace about the danger of moving GSOB-infested firewood, particularly in light of the fact that there was no prospect of an oak firewood quarantine being established.   A big surge in GSOB-caused mortality in San Diego County combined with the first discovery of GSOB in Riverside County increased the urgency of getting signs installed.


goldspotted oak borer sign

Sign at Highway 74 in route to Idyllwild – San Bernardino National Forest, California


With funding in hand, we set about coming up with a plan for determining sign design, placement locations, permitting requirements, procurement process, and sign installation. The Don’t Move Firewood campaign is well branded in California and nationally, so the committee felt that continuing the branding made sense. The Nature Conservancy’s Don’t Move Firewood campaign shared samples of sign designs being used in other states and offered the services of their graphic designer to help us with our customized design- at no charge!  As you can see, our design highlights GSOB and features a white background to minimize fading in the strong California sun.


For sign locations, Cuyamaca State Park offered to place one sign on Highway 79 in the heart of GSOB country, and another at Mount Palomar, an area immediately at risk to GSOB.  The Descanso Ranger District of the Cleveland National Forest identified three high-use recreation facilities where the signs would be effective.  The City of San Diego Parks Department placed a sign at their Mission Trails facility which in July identified its first GSOB tree.  CAL FIRE in San Diego is installing a 4’x8’ sign on one of their existing fire prevention sign locations.  Finally, the Riverside County Mountain Area Safety Task Force utilized and existing San Bernardino National Forest sign location on Highway 74 between the city of Hemet and Idyllwild.  Each agency that received a sign was responsible for pursuing whatever permitting or permission process was required.


goldspotted oak borer roadside sign

Sign at Sunrise Highway in the Cleveland National Forest, California


A number of CAL FIRE Conservation camps produce “camp products” which include producing signs.  We selected Norco Camp in Riverside County for this project because it was local and had the ability to utilize computer graphics for producing signs in custom sizes.  Norco also built nice redwood sign frames for some sign locations without existing frames. When the signs were completed, CAL FIRE Riverside Unit/Riverside County Fire Department offered the use of their hook-lift truck and a driver to deliver the signs to various locations.


Things to consider if you are planning a future roadside sign project:


  • Using a custom design produced by the Don't Move Firewood campaign allows your project to immediately be part of a well recognized national campaign- and the designs are done at no cost to your project.
  • Signs placed at turnouts, vista points, entry kiosks etc. can contain more detailed information than signs on high-speed sections of roadway where vehicle occupants have a few seconds to view.
  • Try to place signs on sections of roadway where drivers are not having to cope with merging, passing, high-speed cornering or other functions of driving that require their full attention.
  • Signs at locations where people pull over, stop, or have to drive at a slower rate of speed offer the best opportunity for observation.
  • Signs made of decals placed onto aluminum metal backings allow for changing the message or graphics periodically.  However, signs produced with other materials and technologies may have an appeal.
  • Check with the local regulatory agency to insure you are complying with signage laws.
  • Sign designs can utilize frames on which signs are mounted or frameless (signs attach directly to posts with no frame.
  • Consider rotating the signs with other messages; people become oblivious if they travel the same section of road, but a change catches their eye.
  • Produce the largest size possible on existing sign boards.
  • If using an existing sign frame, make sure to check out its condition and take appropriate replacement parts for worn components.


Many thanks to the agencies, groups and individuals that contributed to making this a successful team effort!



For questions regarding this project, please contact Kevin Turner, Goldspotted Oak Borer Program Coordinator, University of California Riverside

Firewood Outreach Coordinating Initiative Survey

The Firewood Outreach Coordinating Initiative (FOCI) serves as a venue for individuals actively engaged in firewood outreach, allowing the frequent sharing of activities, ideas, and information throughout North America. One of the many participants in the FOCI is the manager of Don’t Move Firewood (yours truly)- but it is important to note that Don’t Move Firewood’s campaign is one of many different facets of the FOCI- not the only one! As the end of the second consecutive year of FOCI newsletters approached, staff of The Nature Conservancy created and disseminated an online 10 question survey to determine how well the FOCI newsletter was achieving its goal, and to best inform FOCI efforts for the future.


So what did we find? Of the 421 subscribers to the FOCI Newsletter in October 2014, 89 subscribers clicked on the link to the online survey and 65 completed filling out the online survey within 11 days. It is not possible (due to the otherwise anonymous survey) to determine which 65 of the 89 individuals that clicked on the survey link actually completed the survey, but the initial group of 89 contains emails associated with dozens of state agencies, at least four federal agencies, several private industry groups, multiple public school districts, University extension offices, a variety of well known non-profits, and many ‘generic’ email domains (such as @gmail, @centurylink, etc).  Survey respondents rated the FOCI as averaging 7.3 out of 10 for when asked to rate its usefulness in their professional setting, and an average of B+ (3.3 of 4.0) on an academic style grade scale when asked how it is performing as a “venue for individuals actively engaged in firewood outreach, allowing the frequent sharing of activities, ideas, and information.” Survey respondents generally suggested no changes to the current numbers of stories, news articles, the frequency of the newsletter, and the general amount of newsletter coverage dedicated to major pests such as Asian longhorned beetle, emerald ash borer, and European spongy moth. A notable portion of survey respondents indicated they wanted more coverage of less well discussed pests such as the Asian spongy moth, goldspotted oak borer, and sudden oak death. Survey respondents generally indicated they were satisfied with how the newsletter discusses programmatic content, with the exception that a very marked (72%) number of respondents would like to see more pest outbreak announcements. The final three write-in questions contained a wide variety of positive feedback along with constructive criticism and ideas.


Where do we go from here? The survey showed that nearly everything that the FOCI newsletter currently does is helpful to the community of professionals that it serves- but it could do more. The one area of improvement that the FOCI survey highlighted was the need to have a greater exchange of ideas- such as more guest articles on the newsletter, or perhaps a more interactive webinar series. Both of these ideas are currently being examined for the 2015 season of the FOCI as a result of this feedback.


For a full report, Executive Summary, and all results of the 2014 FOCI survey, please download the FOCI Newsletter Survey Results off the Don’t Move Firewood Resource Library.


Wondering where your sticker is? We are contacting everyone that took the survey to get a mailing address. THANK YOU for your patience- please check your email and/or spam folder between  November 12th and November 20th for a note from us asking for where to send your sticker!

Charcoal, mesquite, and your upcoming BBQ

Sub Title:

Here at Don't Move Firewood, we get quite a few questions about speciality woods used for smoking meats. Here's a recent sample question we addressed from the Dear Don't Move Firewood email "hotline."


Dear Don't Move Firewood,

I was wondering- what about moving bags of mesquite charcoal? I live in Phoenix and there is this local company that make mesquite charcoal from wood out of Sonora, Mexico. Some restaurants that I've been to have this brand of mesquite charcoal- I used it and it's great charcoal- and I have a friend working at the warehouse here in Phoenix. He can give me a discount and I'm thinking of taking bag of it to California for family that does bbq catering.



Grilled Meat Guy


Dear Grilled Meat Guy,

If the mesquite wood has been very well turned into charcoal, so that it is very black and burnt and then bagged up, that really should not be a problem and it would be fine to bring from Phoenix to your friends in California. If the wood is still in "green" sticks (has not been pre-heated extensively), or if it has been stored in a brush pile outside, that could be problematic or even illegal, depending on where you live and if there are Imported Fire Ant quarantines in your area. But for bagged and processed mesquite charcoal, you should be fine. Good luck and have a good BBQ with your friends!


Approved firewood here is not approved firewood over there

Sub Title:

Dear Don't Move Firewood,

If we go camping in a National Park out of state and buy firewood from that National Park's campground store, that is supplied by an approved vendor, but we don't use the last 2 or 3 pieces of wood, is it ok to bring that extra firewood to one of our state parks over 400 miles away from the National Park where we bought it?

Thank you,
Concerned Camper


Dear Concerned Camper,

That's a really good question. There are two answers- the biology answer, and the park-perspective answer.

From the biology perspective, if you bought certified heat treated firewood at that park approved vendor, and you've been storing those last few 2 or 3 pieces in your car or RV (not on the ground or in an open air woodshed) then that wood is no more of a threat then when you originally bought it. So purely from a biological pest risk perspective, you could bring it to a state park 400 miles away. Now, if it was just local (untreated) wood that you bought at the park approved vendor, the biological perspective is that you should not move it from the National Park back to your state park, far away, because 400 miles is not local anymore!


But wait! I'm not saying you should bring wood from park A to park B, 400 miles apart, under either situation!

That's because the park-perspective answer is different. Sadly, some campers try to cheat the system (presumably they feel strongly about not having to pay for firewood) so a few pieces of wood that- from the park staff perspective- you 'claim' was certified as heat treated and purchased from an approved vendor 400 miles ago- that's not something a state park is going to be able to honor. Quite frankly even though YOU would be honest, they have no way to know that, so it becomes a very difficult issue for them. And all of this would depend on the firewood being stored in your vehicle, too- storing it outside in a pile for even just a day or two would potentially allow pests to colonize the wood. Furthermore, you are crossing a state boundary in this hypothetical situation, which often means that you are violating an interstate firewood movement regulation.


So the answer is no, it is not OK to move firewood in this scenario. 400 miles is too far, and it certainly isn't worth the risk of having the wood confiscated- or receiving a fine- in this case.

I hope that makes sense! Thanks for inquiring.

Halloween Invasive Insect Bug Masks for 2014!

Due to overwhelming popular demand, we are releasing our pre-colored-in Halloween Invasive Species Bug Mask Collection! These masks are colored in simple bright colors according to the actual true look of the insect, melding biologically accurate information with a fun and cartoon-like appearance. They are perfect for your invasive species lesson plan, ecological role playing, and more- whether for Halloween, Earth Day, or any other day!


gypsy moth maskgoldspotted oak borer maskasian longhorned beetle maskwalnut twig beetle maskemerald ash borer mask

(left to right: spongy moth, goldspotted oak borer, Asian longhorned beetle, walnut twig beetle, and emerald ash borer)

Click on any image to take you to that file; choose either a pre-colored invasive insect mask, its corresponding line-drawn bug mask, or download both masks for a given species for whatever uses you might have. Please note that the spongy moth mask comes in male and female moth forms (2 pages, only male moth is shown in the image preview) and the Asian longhorned beetle mask comes with a separate page to print the long antennae.


To help you select a mask that applies well to the trees and issues where you live and work, below we’ve suggested just two each for of the USA’s and Canada’s basic regions. However, these are just suggestions, so feel free to use any and all insects if you’d like. Enjoy!


Northeastern USA, Mid Atlantic USA, and Eastern Canada


Great Lakes USA and Central Canada


Midwestern USA and Great Plains USA


Interior Western USA


Southwestern USA


Pacific Northwestern USA and Western Canada


Southeastern US

Press Release: Preserve Fall Color – Don’t Move Firewood

Press Release for October 8, 2014

Preserve Fall Color – Don’t Move Firewood

Leaf watchers may unwittingly transport bug invaders

Fall is a busy time in the Southern Blue Ridge, with thousands of leaf peepers traveling to see the annual display. But, that beautiful foliage could be destroyed by visitors who bring firewood from outside the area. That’s because forest pests love nothing better than catching a fast ride on infested firewood.

“The fall tourist season is important to our economy,” says Trish Johnson, Director of Forest Conservation for the Tennessee Chapter of the Conservancy. “We need to keep our forest healthy to keep the tourists coming. It’s sad to think that some of the very people who are coming here to enjoy the leaves may be unwittingly bringing the very thing that will destroy those leaves.”

The Nature Conservancy and its conservation partners, including the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service as well as state agencies across the Southern Blue Ridge, are working to educate the public about the need to use downed local wood that is gathered on site or buy wood that has been heat treated, killing potential pests.

“We’re trying to combat the rapid spread of tree-destroying pests,” says Johnson. “Naturally, these bugs don’t move very fast – just a mile or so a year. But, put a person in a car bringing their firewood to the Smokies and those pests can travel hundreds of miles in a day. Everything we can do to stop and slow the spread of these bugs is a good thing for our forests.”

Research shows that infestations of pests such as the emerald ash borer, which kills ash trees, often start at campgrounds. The likely culprit is people accidentally bringing in contaminated firewood. Many other pests of heightened concern, like the Asian longhorned beetle and spongy moth, can also hitchhike on firewood- posing risks to iconic fall foliage trees like the crimson red maples, rich golden oaks, and many more.

The Tennessee Chapter of The Nature Conservancy has developed a web site to help people locate vendors of the certified heat-treated wood: firewoodscout.org

Information about the risk of moving firewood can be found at www.dontmovefirewood.org

More information about specific insect and disease threats to Tennessee’s forests, as well as management options and quarantine regulations, can be found at www.ProtectTNForests.org

More information about specific insect and disease threats to North Carolina’s forests, as well as monitoring information, can be found at https://www.ncforestservice.gov/forest_health/forest_health.htm