Booth visits the Northeast Organic Farming Association

A weekend of vegetables, rabbits, and invasive species education

By Ariel Kirk


In early August, Katie and I set up the Don’t Move Firewood both at the NOFA (Northeast Organic Farming Association) conference at the University of Massachusetts campus in Amherst, MA.  The event was busy with seminars and workshops for both the aspiring organic farmer and tips to improve the methods of those in the know for decades.  People could learn about farming with draft horses, teens could take workshops on raising goats and rabbits, what were the best options to fight garden and farm pests without using chemicals, and how to market that bumper crop of great veggies when the harvest is ready. It was interesting to see the variety of products being sold – and the variety of questions we were getting at the Don’t Move Firewood booth.


One of the more common questions was about the odd purple box that we have on display, and how it relates to the emerald ash borer.  These purple “traps” are actually survey tools that help biologists search for the emerald ash borer more efficiently.  The traps are a specific purple color that emerald ash borers are attracted to, and then they have a very sticky substance that catches any beetle that tries to land on the purple panels. Biologists then periodically check these traps, allowing the experts to better located new infestations of emerald ash borer. The trees with these traps in them are labeled, with an explanation is given on a plaque for the public to read…which is great if you’re hiking and come across one, but easy to miss if you are driving past.

emerald ash borer on purple trap panel

Some of the visitors to our booth didn’t initially understand the message of “Don’t Move Firewood” when they first read our banner, but once we explained the concept of the issue a light bulb went off and they were making great connections to similar problems in their area- Zebra mussels in the Great Lakes and other waterways across the nation, Asian carp disrupting native aquatic ecosystems, and many invasive plant species crowding out native plants and skewing the regional environmental balance.  All of these instances are great examples of introduced species that have had a negative effect on the native environments, just like how the invasive insects we talk about have a dramatic negative effect on our forests.


Now, next time you see those odd purple boxes hanging in the trees off the side of the road you’ll know exactly what they’re for and how they’re helping scientists keep tabs on the emerald ash borer in the region.

EAB purple trap tree emerald ash borer

Heels are for dancing, not for bug squishing

Falcon Ridge Folk Festival and Firewood, Guest blog by TNC Summer Staff Ariel Kirk

Here at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in Hillsdale, NY, contra dancing is king!  Contra dancing is similar to square dancing – you dance with a partner as the steps are called and then join up with other partners to form larger, more intricate dances as the song progresses. All those foot stomps and counting steps reminded me of something “buggy”…if you ever encounter any potential invasive insects, it’s better to take a photo and call the hotline than to just squish them flat!

We had a great number of visitors to our Don’t Move Firewood booth at Falcon Ridge that were initially thinking that the best course of action, if they come across these critters, would be to squish them. Not so! Killing one insect out of a larger population really won’t help matters, but if you document that insect with a photograph and contact the right authorities (like your state department of agriculture, or a local knowledgeable master gardener if you can’t quite figure it out) in your area, you’d be a huge help. Biologists can then investigate the insect or tree symptom and determine the best course of action in that location. Your report might be much needed information, allowing the experts to track the invasive species and have the most up to date statistics on the health of our trees and our forests.

don't move firewood summer intern booth

Some visitors to the booth were wondering how to procure firewood for their camping needs if they can’t bring it with them.  That’s a great question.  Many state parks won’t allow you to bring in firewood any more because invasive species are such a problem to our native ecosystem, so you’ll need to plan ahead. In most cases, you’ll be buying firewood from a local grocery store or gas station. First, check out the bag. The best type of wood has a shield-like emblem on the bag from USDA- APHIS that certifies the wood has been heat-treated to the correct temperature and duration to ensure it is safe to use and no hitchhiking insects are within the wood. And don’t worry- no pesticides or chemicals are used for treating the wood, it is just heated to a high temperature for a specific amount of time designed to kill any insects or pathogens in or on the firewood.

heat treated firewood shield symbol USDA APHIS


Happy camping to you and contra dance your heart out!

Nine National Park Firewood Policies

Millions of people will visit a National Park this summer, so we here at Don't Move Firewood have investigated the current firewood recommendations, restrictions, and regulations for some of the most visited parks. Keeping in mind that the National Park guidance document, Reducing ecological risks associated with pests in firewood: Guidance for park managers, was only published in June 2014, it is completely understandable that the different parks would still have very different policies in place.


In alphabetical order, here are eight of the most visited parks that have firewood policies, plus a bonus park at the end!


1. Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park Camping Regulations Page: "Firewood brought in from other areas may contain non-native insect species that pose a serious threat to Acadia National Park's resources. Quarantines have been issued for some areas. Please leave your firewood at home. Firewood is available locally near both Blackwoods and Seawall Campgrounds. For more information, see the pest alert (PDF-188KB) produced by the National Park Service."


2. Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Cuyahoga Valley National Park has firewood policies in place, but regrettably we were unable to find a single official park webpage that summarized them.

– "Firewood is provided; you may not bring additional firewood/kindling into the park" from Reserve America, Know Before You Go Section.

– "If you are renting a park shelter, firewood will be provided for you—do not bring your own." Emerald ash borer educational handout for Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

– "Use firewood that is provided in the storage shed. Do not gather wood within the park." Camping Regulations handout from Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park


3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (updated for 2015)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Firewood Alert: "Beginning in March 2015, only heat-treated firewood that is bundled and displays a certification stamp by the USDA or a state department of agriculture will be allowed for use in (Great Smoky Mountains National Park) campgrounds. Campers may also collect dead and down wood found in the park for campfires. Certified heat-treated firewood is packaged and clearly marked with a state or federal seal. Heat-treated wood is available from a growing list of private businesses in communities around the park."


4. Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park Buy It Where You Burn It Page: "Buy firewood near where you will burn it- that means the wood was cut within 50 miles of where you'll have your fire."


5. Ozark National Scenic Riverway

Ozark National Scenic Riverway Don’t Move Firewood Page: "Get your firewood from a seller close to your destination. Don't pack your own firewood for use at your campsite or cabin."


6. Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park Campgrounds Page: "Campers are encouraged to purchase firewood in the area where they are camping. Out-of-state firewood is discouraged as it may hold harmful insects which could spread in our neighborhood."


7. Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park Firewood Ban Page: "Visitors to Shenandoah National Park may not bring firewood or wood scraps. Visitors must gather or purchase firewood within the park."

Additional informational from Reserve America, Know before You Go Section for Shenandoah National Park:

"LEAVE YOUR FIREWOOD AT HOME!! One of the most important things we can do to protect Virginia's trees and forest diversity is stop moving firewood. New infestations of tree-killing insects and diseases are often first found in campgrounds and parks. Why? Because people have accidently spread invasive species when they brought firewood along with them. In Virginia, there are numerous counties under quarantines, issued by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, due to an invasive insect pest or disease. These quarantines restrict the movement of firewood or wood by products from certain tree species. Moving firewood in violation of a quarantine is a class 1 misdemeanor and upon conviction, you could be subject to; confinement in jail for up to twelve months and a fine of $2,500.00 or both … PLAY IT SAFE – LEAVE YOUR FIREWOOD AT HOME!!"


8. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park Campground Regulations: "We discourage visitors from bringing firewood from more than 50 miles away to prevent spread of forest pests. You can purchase firewood at stores near most campgrounds."


BONUS PARK- Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Firewood in the Lakeshore page: "The Lakeshore has a new firewood policy that will allow campers the warmth of their fires and help prevent and slow the spread of forest pests and diseases. According to the firewood policy, campers may use only firewood acquired from vendors approved by the National Lakeshore and not bring firewood from home. Bringing firewood into the park from anywhere else can rapidly spread destructive pests such as hemlock woolly adelgid, beech bark disease, Asian longhorn beetle, and oak wilt; as it did the emerald ash borer."

Why did we include Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore? It isn't among the most visited parks, but it does have excellent policies in place to slow the spread of firewood vectored pests, so it is an official Honorable Mention in our National Parks list!

Upswing in Asian Spongy Moth populations seen in native range

There are no known permanently established populations of Asian spongy moth (Lymantria dispar asiatica) in North America– but in order to keep the continent free of this pest, it is critical for forest health professionals to learn about its current status.


Recent reports from USDA APHIS and US Customs and Border Protection indicate that Asian spongy moth populations are in a general cyclical upswing in their native range of Russia and Japan. This means that the chance that this moth is accidentally brought to North America on shipping container surfaces is higher than usual- which in turn means that Western port communities need to be on high alert.


“Asian Spongy Moth activity was anticipated to be high at the beginning of the 2014 season, and is anticipated to be yet higher in 2015. At this point we have seen high populations in both Russia and Japan. USDA APHIS is receiving regular reports from these countries to monitor the situation. The busy season for AGM is from June through September, and at this point in the 2014 season Customs and Border Protection has inspected approximately 1600 vessels and found four vessels in US ports with positive AGM egg masses – all from Japanese ports of origin. The Japanese inspection companies have had removed adult moths or egg masses from 82 ships in 44 different Japanese ports during pre-departure procedures. The success rate of the inspection companies in Japan, for ships bound for North America, is over 99%.” William Wesela, Asian spongy Moth Program Director, USDA APHIS PPQ.


Knowing that these egg masses are making it to North American ports, even if extremely rarely, underscores the high importance of looking for and reporting possible individual moths, egg cases, or infestations of any spongy moths outside of the known infested area in Eastern US and Canada (official map here) – especially in Western port cities. Spongy moths (of both the Asian and European types) can be and have been eradicated when found in isolated infestations, and the key to eradication is rapid detection of each isolated new spongy moth population. While the Asian spongy moth looks incredibly similar to the European spongy moth, it is different because of two key aspects: the wider range of tree species it can destroy, and the female adult moths can fly (unlike the European spongy moth, whose females are flightless). This makes detecting potential infestations of Asian spongy moth incredibly important to the health of North American trees.
asian gypsy moth shown with moth trap in Russia

Russian official observing Asian spongy moth trap with high local moth densities in Olga, Russia. Credit: USDA APHIS PPQ (ed. note: all the white specks are individual Asian spongy moths)


One of the most important tenets of Don’t Move Firewood is to be proactive with precaution. We often get questions on our e-hotline like “Can I move some seasoned old firewood? Any bugs must be long gone, right?” and our response is always the same “No, please don’t, it might harbor pests like spongy moths.” Spongy moths, in particular, can infest firewood or lumber scraps regardless of how long the wood was aged– and their egg cases can look very much like an otherwise innocent little patch of mold.


Western North American port communities, especially those receiving a lot of shipments from Japan and Russia (such as Long Beach, Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver), need to include Asian spongy moth in their forest pest outreach programs and materials. Teaching the public about the importance of looking for spongy moths, and not moving firewood, is critical to finding pests like these early enough to launch a successful eradication program. Just because you don’t have a recorded quarantine does NOT mean that you might not have a small unknown infestation in your community.


Here are resources on the topics of Asian Spongy Moth and European Spongy Moth