Guest blog by Mollie Klepack, Vermont Forest Pest Outreach Coordinator
In communities across Vermont, trees are marked with orange ribbon and tags exhorting everyone to “Protect This Tree, leave firewood at home.”
During the week of May 17-23 2015, citizens learned about this request as Vermont celebrated the important role local firewood plays in protecting our trees. The goals of Firewood Awareness Week were; to draw attention to the risks of moving firewood; to feature the social, economic, environmental, and personal impacts of invasive pests; and to educate the public about the upcoming state quarantine regulating the movement of firewood into Vermont. When the dust settled at the end of the week, 450 ash trees had been tagged at rest areas, campgrounds, and trailheads throughout Vermont; 4 rest area blitzes had been hosted by 13 staff and volunteers; over 18,000 people were reached through social media; and that was just the beginning!
Kim, the Park Ranger at Mount Philo State Park, stands with a tree tag for Vermont’s Firewood Awareness Week.
Highlights from Vermont’s Firewood Awareness Week include :
- 450 host trees (which include maple, ash, birch, and poplar) tagged at 14 rest areas, 12 state parks, 1 federal campground, and 2 trailheads throughout Vermont.
- Four rest area blitzes hosted at the Wiliston Northbound Information Center, Sharon Welcome Center, Fair Haven Welcome Center, and Bennington Welcome Center.
- Over 500 visitors to Vermont’s rest areas entertained by Gwen the EAB and Smokey Bear, telling them to “Buy It Where You Burn It” at the rest area blitzes.
- One University of Vermont Extension Across the Fence TV Show aired – Click here to view the episode!
- Over 18,200 people engaged through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts
- Don’t Move Firewood PSAs played on at least 5 community access TV stations, serving 47 towns across Vermont.
- Over seven newspaper and newsletter articles published about the Awareness Week and an op-ed by Steve Sinclair, Director of Forests for Vermont’s Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation.
- Three Front Porch Forum posts shared in at least ten Vermont communities.
Firewood Awareness Week was a collaborative effort of UVM Extension, Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation; Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets; USDA/APHIS; U.S. Forest Service, and Don’t Move Firewood.
University of Vermont students visit the Sharon Rest Area Blitz, where they were greeted by Smokey Bear, asking them to buy and burn local firewood.
Plans are afoot to host another firewood themed awareness week in early summer 2016. Lessons learned and ideas for that effort include :
- Rest area blitzes are a fun, easy way to reach visitors to the state. The hours of peak visitation, however, do not easily line up with the standard workday, so it is important to carefully weigh the goals of the program vs. capacity to staff the event outside standard business hours.
- Social media is a great way to get the word out. One strategy that worked well for Firewood Awareness Week was to partner with other organizations and special interest groups to share content in order to leverage audiences and reach.
- Don’t Move Firewood.org was a tremendous partner to provide advice and graphic design for materials such as banners, brochures, posters, and handouts. Thank you Don’t Move Firewood!
- An outreach avenue we will explore for future awareness efforts is to partner with grocery stores to provide Don’t Move Firewood brochures with their s’more and hotdog displays during the summer months.
You can view or download four of the outreach products used for this event here:
Vermont Forest Pest Outreach Coordinator, Mollie Klepack, will also be reaching out to other pest outreach programs in New England and New York to explore the potential of hosting a region-wide firewood awareness week.