Cleaning up tree debris in hurricane damaged areas

How to Keep Neighborhood Trees Healthy and Resilient in the Aftermath of Hurricanes

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have been taking down countless trees in Texas, Florida, and all the states between them along the Gulf of Mexico. In the aftermath of severe storms like these, trees can get lots of attention and are pointed to as the cause of loss of power and damage to property. However, while some trees do come down in high wind and extreme weather events, the majority of healthy trees survive severe storms, buffer the high winds as the storms come ashore, absorb excess rainfall, and reduce localized flooding.

In the wake of these major storms, it is extremely important to remember that moving storm debris, limbs, and downed trees over long distances can inadvertently spread tree-killing insects to new places. Many areas affected by Hurricane Harvey and Irma are under quarantines that specifically prohibit the long-distance movement of tree-based storm debris (including debris that has been cut into pieces of firewood). These quarantines will depend on exact location, and may include restrictions in place for emerald ash borer, imported fire ants, giant african land snail, and citrus greening (Huanglongbing). The southeastern USA also has widespread infestations of laurel wilt, which is not under federal quarantine but can be transported on storm debris as well.

Storm debris from downed trees and branches should be disposed of using one of the following safer ways: brought to a local solid waste facility (i.e. landfill), brought to a licensed city composting facility, brought to a registered storm debris disposal yard (sometimes called a marshalling yard or area), or used on site for personal firewood. Consult local newspapers and storm information to find out which of the disposal options is best in your area as you get ready to clean up your property.

Tree damaged by Hurricane Harvey in Texas 2017: Flickr user Welscor, Creative Commons License

For future storm safety, it is especially important to remember that trees planted near homes and roads need to be properly pruned to minimize potential damage and failure, especially near power lines. When planting new trees, it is helpful to select a species that will not grow too tall and interfere with power lines to minimize future damage. As cities look to replant choosing the right tree and putting the right tree in the right place will create a more sustainable—and storm resistant—landscape for years to come.

Despite the damage trees can cause in extreme weather events, healthy trees in urban and suburban areas are important for a safer and cleaner urban infrastructure. Trees provide the many benefits to both people and wildlife in city settings:

  • Improving water quality by minimizing erosion, slowing the flow of precipitation, and minimizing flooding during heavy rain events
  • Mitigating climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the air, regulating local climate by lowering daily temperature variation, and reducing energy expenditure on heating and cooling
  • Providing shade and improving local air quality by removing air pollutants and producing oxygen
  • Creating valuable habitat for wildlife, and shade and a natural environment for city residents

For more information, we recommend visiting:

This blog is based on our popular 2012 blog, The Importance of Trees in Hurricane Sandy

From here to there in New Mexico

Dear Don’t Move Firewood

Can I bring firewood from Albuquerque New Mexico to the Red River area in New Mexico?

Yours, Shannon in the Land of Enchantment

Dear Shannon,

It is legal to bring firewood from Albuquerque to Red River in New Mexico, however, that is well over the suggested distance limit of 50 miles for moving firewood. If it is possible for you to buy local firewood in Red River, or collect firewood in Red River near your destination, that would be better.

Thank you for asking!

For information on New Mexico’s firewood recommendations and regulations, see our New Mexico State Summary

Selling firewood in Tennessee

We love getting questions from you, our readers, on your firewood issues!

Dear Don’t Move Firewood,

My husband sells firewood to the people that camp at (US Army Corps administered campground in Tennessee). We are a mile from the camp grounds and get all our wood locally. We season it for 2 years in the sun. Will the people who purchase through us no longer be able to take our firewood into the camp grounds with the new Army Corps firewood rules? Thank you for your help. 

Yours, Beth in Tennessee

Dear Beth,

Yes, the new policy as set by the Army Corps of Engineers in Tennessee is that firewood that is not packaged and stamped as formally certified as heat-treated by USDA APHIS is not permitted within their campgrounds, so your seasoned firewood would not be allowed. I do realize this may be a frustrating policy for a firewood vendor as close are you are to the park. If you are interested in learning how to become a business that sells heat treated firewood, I suggest you contact the USDA APHIS offices in Tennessee to speak with them. Thank you!

UPDATE!

Dear Don’t Move Firewood,

Thank you so much for your prompt attention to our question. My husband’s log splitter broke and we don’t want to purchase another one if we can’t sell next year. Now we know. Thanks.

Yours, Beth in Tennessee

Disposing of termite infested firewood

Time for a new installment in our occasional advice column series, Dear Don’t Move Firewood, this time from a homeowner in California!

Dear Don’t Move Firewood,

We live in (city removed) near San Diego and discovered today that we have drywood termites living in our firewood, both inside and outside our home. The wood has been there, unused, for 5 or 6 years, and our termite inspector suggested either burning it, or, since the summer is hot enough already, bagging it in strong garbage bags and throwing it out with the usual trash pickup. Is this okay to do? Thank you!

Yours, Benjamin from California

Dear Benjamin,

I am sorry to hear about the termites! I agree with your idea that summer is hot enough without a bonfire, and wildfire risks are also so high this time of year. Yes, you definitely could bag it and throw it out with regular trash pickup if you wanted. As an alternative that is a bit more ecologically friendly, you might be able to get a green waste bin from a local municipal compost or trash service. They would take your firewood and turn it into harmless, termite-free compost, which is probably better than it just taking up space in the landfill. Try searching online for any sort of local business that accepts green waste for mulch, compost, or soil amendments. Good luck, and thank you for asking!

Firewood from Ohio to Maine

The Dear Don’t Move Firewood advice column is back, with real questions from real people (often slightly edited to ensure they are anonymous).

Dear Don’t Move Firewood,

I’m going camping in another state which is Maine. I’m from Ohio. Can I take wood for camp fires from my own wood pile?

Yours, Bruce from Ohio

Dear Bruce,

It is illegal to take any out of state firewood into Maine, as per Maine state law. It is also violation of the emerald ash borer (EAB) federal quarantine to take it from Ohio (inside the EAB quarantine area) into Maine (which is outside the EAB quarantine area). Last but not least, in general, the rule of thumb is not to move firewood more than 50 miles- and it is a lot more than 50 miles from Ohio to Maine.

Instead of bringing firewood from your own wood pile in Ohio, please plan to buy wood after your arrival in Maine, ideally near your camping destination. Thank you!

For more information on Maine’s firewood laws, please visit our Maine State Summary page

 

Oregon Forest Pest Detector Network and 2017 Firewood Eclipse Outreach

Guest blog by Brandy Saffell, Program Coordinator for the Oregon Forest Pest Detector Program, Oregon State University Extension Service

The 2013 arrival of the emerald ash borer (EAB) in Boulder, Colorado, was a serious wakeup call to natural resource agency professionals in Oregon. Up until then, we had assumed that the Rocky Mountains would serve as a natural barrier to the westward spread of insects like EAB and the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB). The several hundred miles that EAB jumped from an infestation in the Midwestern or Eastern states to Boulder was likely due to the movement of infested firewood- which made us realize that EAB may only be one infested load of wood away from Oregon.

In response, the Oregon State University Extension Service created the Oregon Forest Pest Detector program (OFPD), which trains natural resource professionals and volunteers how to identify and report high priority invasive forest pests in the course of their daily work. Since our first workshop in 2015, over 350 participants from across the state have completed the OFPD training. When new pests or potential pathways arise, this network of trained detectors is not only a great resource for visual survey and early detection, but also education and outreach.

Oregon Forest Pest Detectors looking for signs of EAB during a workshop in Cathedral Park, Portland (Photo credit: Brandy Saffell)

One recent example of OFPD outreach was advance preparation for 2017 solar eclipse travelers. With the sudden influx of visitors from across the country in campgrounds and natural areas along the path of totality, there was reasonable concern that infested firewood could end up in Oregon. We used the Don’t Move Firewood solar eclipse campaign materials in our summer OFPD newsletter and encouraged detectors to spread the word to their clients, employees, and communities. We also marketed to other OSU Extension networks such as the Oregon Master Naturalists. We heard back from several detectors that they had used the materials in their own communications, such as an urban forester from Portland Parks & Recreation who directed the message to Portlanders via the Tree Bark newsletter. We also heard from some Master Naturalist volunteers who served as naturalist interpreters and firewood educators at the Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge during the eclipse.

Master Naturalist volunteers setting up an interpretation booth at Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge (Photo credit: Brett Lawrence)

In the next few years, the Oregon State University Extension Service would like to expand the OFPD program to reach out to more campground managers and volunteer hosts. We also hope to develop and implement a campground firewood exchange in cooperation with Oregon Parks and Recreation, where campers who bring firewood from outside Oregon can turn it in for local firewood.

Oregon Forest Pest Detectors is a partnership between the OSU Extension Service, Oregon Department of Forestry, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), USDA Forest Service, Oregon Department of Agriculture, and Oregon Invasive Species Council. The program would not be possible without funding received from USDA APHIS and the US Forest Service.

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Wyoming Firewood Education for Solar Eclipse Travelers

Guest blog by Ryan DeSantis, Forest Health Program Manager with the Wyoming State Forestry Division

Every year, millions of people travel to Wyoming to experience its outdoor recreation opportunities. This August, an estimated 500,000 additional visitors from out of state will come to Wyoming to view a rare total eclipse of the sun. On August 21, 2017, from approximately 10 AM to 1:30 PM, the eclipse’s 70-mile wide path of totality (the area where the moon will completely cover the sun) will span more than 365 miles across the length of Wyoming: from Jackson at the western edge of the state to Torrington on the eastern border. Wyoming is an ideal place to watch this eclipse due to its wide-open spaces, low light pollution, abundant public lands, and high probability of clear skies.

The Wyoming State Forestry Division has embarked on a partnership with the national Don’t Move Firewood campaign in anticipation that out of state campers might intend to bring their own firewood- not realizing that this has the potential to transport tree-killing insects and diseases into Wyoming forests. This educational campaign consists of billboards and public outreach materials to raise awareness of the need to buy or gather local firewood. Billboards will be located along interstate highways in Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Colorado, targeting traffic traveling toward Wyoming. The goal is to alert people prior to entering Wyoming. Additionally, the Wyoming State Forestry Division issued a press release to notify in-state, adjacent out-of-state, and national media outlets about the billboard advertising campaign.

Campers coming to Wyoming to view the eclipse are encouraged to buy firewood near their destination, or plan to collect firewood if that is allowed at their campsite. Every visitor to Wyoming has a role to play in keeping our forests free of invasive forest insects and diseases.

The USDA Forest Service State and Private Forestry Program helps support Wyoming’s State Cooperative Forestry Programs. Wyoming State Forestry Division is grateful for the funding provided by the USDA Forest Service State and Private Forestry Program that enabled this Don’t Move Firewood advertising campaign. The partnerships between organizations such as the USDA Forest Service and state forestry organizations create such outreach possibilities.

Wyoming’s billboard campaign is slated to run from August 14 to September 11, 2017. Wyoming State Forestry Division has also set up a website to support this effort- for more information, please visit the site: https://sites.google.com/wyo.gov/firewood/home

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Free downloads for Tree Check Month 2017

August is Tree Check Month! Everyone is encouraged to take 10 minutes to check their trees for signs of the Asian longhorned beetle. To help you learn about the beetle, or to provide materials for your outreach needs, we’ve rounded up all the best free resources that we could find!

Infographics and Handouts:

Fun Outreach Items for Kids:

Blogs and News Releases:

Social Media Tips:

Educational Videos:

General Information:

Choose safer firewood for your Great American Eclipse travel weekend

On Monday August 21st 2017, a total eclipse of the sun will be visible in a roughly 70 mile wide swath (called the path of totality) crossing the entire contiguous United States of America. Millions of travelers are expected to camp out over the weekend so they can be in the best viewing area on Monday morning to see the amazing spectacle of a complete solar eclipse. The Nature Conservancy is asking everyone that plans to use firewood for the solar eclipse celebration weekend to buy local firewood near their destination, bring packaged certified heat treated firewood, or gather their firewood on site if permitted by the campground or landowner.

“Make smart choices for your solar eclipse party; drink plenty of water, bring extra solar eclipse glasses, and buy or collect local firewood.” says Leigh Greenwood, Don’t Move Firewood campaign manager for The Nature Conservancy. “Your firewood choices during this solar eclipse celebration can prevent the spread of forest insects and diseases like the emerald ash borer, Asian longhorned beetle, gypsy moth, and others on potentially infested wood.”

The eclipse will first begin at the Oregon coast and will pass over millions of acres of public land where visitors can camp. This total solar eclipse will cover National Forest and Bureau of Land Management lands in Oregon, the many different National Forests of Idaho, and then will cross into Wyoming directly over Grand Teton National Park. State and federal agencies in these western states are preparing to welcome hundreds of thousands of additional tourists arriving just prior to the eclipse.

“We’re estimating 500,000 additional visitors will come to Wyoming to view this once-in-a-lifetime event,” says Ryan DeSantis, Forest Health Program Manager for the Wyoming State Forestry Division. “If you are planning to have a campfire, please buy firewood near your destination, or plan to collect firewood if that’s allowed at your campsite. Every visitor to Wyoming has a role to play in keeping our forests free of invasive forest insects and diseases.”

As solar eclipse 2017 continues, it will traverse the Great Plains, passing through the heart of Nebraska before covering the far northeastern corner of Kansas. Once in the Eastern United States, the path of totality for the eclipse will cross through the center of both Tennessee and South Carolina, providing amazing camping and viewing opportunities for millions of people throughout the region.

“Eighteen Tennessee State Parks and the entire western half of Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be in the eclipse’s path of totality on August 21st,” says Trish Johnson, Director of Forest Conservation for the Tennessee Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. “Everyone is welcome to experience this amazing phenomenon in our parks and forests – and we’d like to remind folks that they can also play a role in protecting the beauty of the places they’ll visit by purchasing certified- heat treated firewood. Every camper can do their part to protect trees from invasive insects and diseases, so that visitors and residents alike can continue to enjoy the unique beauty of our state for decades to come.”

Many states in the path of the eclipse have regulations on the movement of firewood, with rules varying greatly according to local jurisdictions and pest situations. Some states, parks, and campgrounds prohibit bringing your own firewood unless it is packaged with a certified stamp of heat treatment. Call ahead to check on your specific campground, or find state and federal regulations at the Don’t Move Firewood map, found at www.dontmovefirewood.org/map

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

  • The trees cut for firewood in your backyard or town often died due to insects or diseases. Don’t spread pests such as the emerald ash borer – don’t move firewood. Instead, buy it where you’ll burn it, buy certified heat treated firewood, or gather firewood on site if permitted.
  • Aged or seasoned wood is not considered safe to move, as some pests can infest stacked firewood at any time. Certified heat treated bundled firewood is a safer option if you must transport firewood.
  • Firewood cannot be deemed safe just by looking at it. Even firewood that looks “clean” could still harbor tiny insect eggs or microscopic fungal spores that could start a new and deadly infestation of forest pests.
  • Tell your friends and others about the risks of moving firewood – no one wants to be responsible for starting a new pest infestation.

For more information on the Great American Eclipse, visit https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov

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NOTE TO OUR PARTNERS IN FIREWOOD EDUCATION: This blog was written with the express intent of providing ideas and quotes that you can use in your own outreach efforts. You are free to use portions of this blog for your own needs in firewood education. Please do not alter any part of the three direct quotes without prior written permission. Please refer to the Don’t Move Firewood campaign in your release, and include either https://www.dontmovefirewood.org/, https://www.dontmovefirewood.org/map, or https://www.dontmovefirewood.org/choose-safer-firewood-great-american-eclipse-travel-weekend as a reference. If you have questions about attribution, please email the Don’t Move Firewood staff via our Contact Us page.

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Is Offering FREE Firewood a Viable Solution for Pest Prevention?

Guest blog by Mary Ann Bonnell, Visitor Services Manager for Jefferson County Open Space, Colorado.

Is Offering FREE Firewood a Viable Solution for Pest Prevention?

It’s working for Jefferson County Open Space in Colorado. In fact, the Jeffco Open Space (JCOS) free firewood program is setting up its visitors for success while managing healthy parks. Any time a camper reserves one of our campsites at three campground locations, they are notified of park regulations and informed they will have free firewood provided at the kiosk. This is seen as a win-win for our forests and campers alike.

By providing free campfire wood at each campground, we are ensuring the wood is sourced locally and not brought from unknown locations or collected illegally from the surrounding park areas. The wood comes directly from one of the 29 parks which are strategically monitored and managed by Jeffco Open Space Forestry Professionals who thin stands, perform fire mitigation and harvest infested trees when appropriate. Some of the forest pests we manage for include mountain pine beetle and dwarf mistletoe.

Following required dry time, the logs are repurposed for fencing, trail maintenance and firewood. Often times, surplus wood is offered to the community at an annual firewood sale, furthering the impact of buying and burning locally sourced firewood.

Through this program, we can better regulate where firewood comes from while continuing to manage healthy and resilient forests. In addition, it gives us a positive platform to remind visitors about fire safety, putting your campfire “Dead Out” and preventing the spread of invasive pests. Signs and messages are visibly posted and heavily emphasized to all campers who often thank us for the service and education.