Charcoal, mesquite, and your upcoming BBQ

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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

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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:

Information about the risk of moving firewood can be found at

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

More information about specific insect and disease threats to North Carolina’s forests, as well as monitoring information, can be found at