How Do You Fight Forest Pests? It Takes a Village!

Guest blog by Paul Kingsbury, Director of Communications for The Nature Conservancy’s Tennessee Chapter

In the summer of 2013, The Nature Conservancy’s Tennessee Chapter (TNC) and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Division of Forestry (TDF) were facing a heavy lift. Emerald ash borer (EAB), spongy moth and hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) had invaded the state and were expanding their footholds. Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) could be next. How could we fight them with our limited staffs and budgets?

We started small with a strategy of raising awareness about the invasive pest threat among forestry professionals, city arborists, public land managers and the general public. We began with TDF radio PSAs, rack cards, yard signs and posters; regional outreach meetings with tree professionals; print advertising; and news stories and op-eds in Tennessee newspapers. The initial plan was to help people readily identify the pests and encourage them to call in sightings to TDF.

A breakthrough came that first summer when we created an inexpensively printed giveaway wallet card for identifying six main invasives: ALB, EAB, HWA, spongy moth, thousand cankers and sudden oak death. Tree professionals loved it! We could hardly meet the demand, and the University of Tennessee and the North Carolina Forest Service soon joined as partners to defray the printing costs and use them.

Heather Slayton of Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Division of Forestry (in uniform) with Trish Johnson of The Nature Conservancy’s Tennessee Chapter (in costume)

Even better, the National Park Service began talking with us about addressing invasive pests in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Park staff had been communicating their concerns about pests with park management and suggested a possible firewood policy. In turn, park management voiced their concerns about public reaction to such a policy change and emphasized the importance of having enough heat-treated firewood vendors to support visitors’ needs. A partnership formed where TNC could fill both of these needs and begin to enlist partners to assist in a public outreach campaign to pave the way for understanding and acceptance of the new firewood rule.

That was early 2014. Over the next year, we at TNC, TDF and NPS engaged additional partners to help us work out a multi-faceted strategy to educate park visitors. We soon had Tennessee State Parks (TSP), Tennessee Natural Areas, North Carolina State Parks, NC Forest Health, USDA Animal, Plant & Health Inspection Service(APHIS), the US Forest Service and Leigh Greenwood of TNC’s Don’t Move Firewood program on our team. Our joint objective was to prepare the public for new firewood policies in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and gain solid acceptance.
For a year, the partners deployed outreach billboards in five states that have interstates leading to the Smokies. We collaborated on FAQ documents for the web and print, posters, rack cards, ALB and EAB costumes, print ads, and online campground reservation form language—all to raise awareness about the firewood pest issue. TNC took the lead on surveying the certified firewood market, helping to encourage new retailers, and in creating a TNC web map for the public to locate vendors selling certified firewood.

Alex Wyss of The Nature Conservancy’s Tennessee Chapter in front of one of the first billboards used in the Tennessee efforts

In March 2015, NPS rolled out the new firewood policy for the Smokies. Our multi-faceted public education campaign worked! There were very few complaints from park visitors. They understood why the new rules were necessary. Following that resounding success, our Tennessee State Parks partners were soon ready to explore a new firewood policy for their parks statewide—an enormously impactful expansion of the program.

To gauge the public mood for this expansion, TNC supplied an intern who visited TSP campgrounds surveying guests about firewood and potential new policies for using certified wood. The surveys reassured TSP management that the public would likely accept and even support the policy change. In June 2016, TSP rolled out their new firewood policies. Again, the partners prepped the public with TDF radio and web PSAs and a TNC op-ed that ran in newspapers across the state, plus TDF smart-phone ads targeted to users of weather apps. Public reactions proved largely supportive with little complaint.

Meanwhile, to meet the growing demand for heat-treated firewood, in the spring of 2016 our partnership began hosting a series of free workshops for the public across Tennessee on how to run a certified, heat-treated firewood wholesale business. In these workshops, we found strong interest among budding entrepreneurs. We continue to host these workshops.

As of March 2017, our consortium of parks with protective firewood policies now includes the Blue Ridge Parkway and the US Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds in the Nashville District. Thanks to the messaging and graphics we developed through our outreach to the public for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Tennessee State Parks, roll-out of the new firewood policy has become a more turnkey operation, with a big savings in time and money for the US Army Corps.

It started out as a heavy lift, but many hands make light work! We hope that other states and larger geographies can take our approach and continue the efforts to protect the forests we all rely on for our work and play. Contact Trish Johnson, Director of Forest Conservation for The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee, for more information:

Webinar: Political Protests and Firewood Movement are a Tricky Combination, on May 18

The political protests that took place this past winter in North Dakota surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline were fueled, in the most literal sense, by thousands of cords of firewood from around the nation. Join us for a FOCI webinar on May 18th 2017 at 3pm Eastern, 2pm Central, 1pm Mountain, and noon Pacific to listen to guest speakers Dave Hirsch (USDA APHIS PPQ State Plant Health Director, North and South Dakota), Charles Elhard (Plant Industries Division Interim Director, North Dakota Department of Agriculture), and Leigh Greenwood (Don’t Move Firewood program manager) describe what North Dakotans experienced in respect to the firewood issue, and how they worked to minimize the threat of forest pests to the Dakota’s forest and tree resources.

This webinar is adapted from a panel presentation given by Dave, Charles, and Leigh at the Central Plant Board meeting in April 2017.

THIS WEBINAR IS NOW COMPLETE. To request the link to the recording, please use our Contact Us form and include a quick statement that you’d like to view the “Political Protests and Firewood Movement” webinar. Thank you!

This webinar had a verified 16 viewers from at least 10 states during the course of the live presentation.


Invasive Pest and Firewood Outreach in Utah

Guest blog by Lori Spears, Invasive Species Survey Coordinator for Utah State University Extension

Invasive species are a growing threat to our nation’s agricultural and natural resources. In Utah, nearly a dozen insect and disease pathogen pests have arrived over the last decade, including spotted wing drosophila (SWD) and brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB). These two insects  were first detected in Utah in 2010 and 2012, respectively. Although they have not yet reached economically injurious levels in Utah, they occur in fruit and vegetable production sites and have the potential for significant negative impacts. Another invasive insect, the emerald ash borer (EAB), is expected to reach Utah in the near future. EAB is known to occur in 27 eastern and mid-western states, and is rapidly expanding its range. It has not yet been found in Utah, but an infestation has been found in neighboring Boulder, Colorado. Unfortunately, research shows that EAB is generally established in an area for several years before it is detected, and so there is a chance that EAB is already present in Utah.

2017 Poster Designs for Utah Based Forest Pest Outreach

In response to new and emerging invasive insect threats, Utah’s plan for invasive pest and firewood outreach include preparing the citizens of Utah with the knowledge and skills necessary to identify potential invasive insects and/or help stop their introduction and spread. Involving everyday citizens in early detection of invasive species has been highly successful across the United States. For example, it was a trained Master Gardener who first detected the Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica) in Orem, Utah, which led to the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food implementing an intense eradication program to prevent its establishment. Utah’s interagency partnership group includes the Utah Plant Pest Laboratory at Utah State University (USU), USU Extension, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, and USDA-APHIS-PPQ.

This year’s activities include:

  • Conducting several First Detector Training workshops along the Wasatch Front (the greater Salt Lake City region) in Utah
  • Participating in farmer markets and other community events throughout the state
  • Creating and placing billboards that highlight the threats associated with invasive pests
  • Designing and placing permanent outdoor interpretive signs that focus on the pathways of invasive pest spread
  • Conducting a Junior Master Gardener training program, whereby youth will tie ribbons and informational tags on ash trees to emphasize the number of trees that could be killed by EAB.

Utah State University Extension staff Erin Brennan working an information booth in front of a custom Don’t Move Firewood banner at Thanksgiving Point Tulip Festival, April 2017.

These activities are funded by USU Extension and/or through a cooperative agreement with USDA-APHIS-PPQ.

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Webinar: Don’t Move Firewood in the Western States on April 27

Join us for a FOCI webinar, Don’t Move Firewood in the Western States, on April 27th at 1 p.m. MDT (3pm Eastern). This webinar will focus on the products and services of greatest interest to western state and federal agency communication directors. This webinar will be open to all, and will be recorded and published to our YouTube channel after it is completed.

This webinar is now complete! View the full recording on the Don’t Move Firewood YouTube channel.

This webinar was offered in coordination with the Council of Western State Foresters and the Western Forestry Leadership Coalition. Many thanks to Sara Goodwin for initiating this shared educational opportunity! Our verified attendance during the webinar was 14 viewers from nine states (CA, CO, ID, ND, NM, OR, SD, UT, and WA).

Hope for Hawaiʻi’s Threatened Keystone Tree, ʻŌhiʻa

Guest blog by Corie Yanger, Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death (ROD) Educational Specialist, University of Hawaiʻi Extension

If you were to ask biologists and cultural practitioners in Hawaiʻi what the most important tree is in the state, “ʻōhiʻa” would likely be the answer. Not only does ʻōhiʻa (pronounced oh-hee-yah, or oh-hee-uh) cover roughly 1 million acres across the Hawaiian Islands, it is one of the first flowering plants to establish on fresh lava flows, and a keystone species of native wet forests. Consequently, one of the largest threats to the health of Hawaiʻi’s native forest ecosystems would be a pest or disease that kills ʻōhiʻa. In the last several years, that threat has surfaced – Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death (ROD).

ROD is a fungal disease that has killed hundreds of thousands of ʻōhiʻa trees and affected more than 50,000 acres of forest in Hawaiʻi. All confirmed cases of ROD-infected trees are located on the largest island, called Hawaiʻi Island or Big Island. Prior to infecting trees on Hawaiʻi, this disease was not known to the scientific community.

Before and after photos of affected ʻōhiʻa forest canopies, photo credits: J.B. Friday

The fungus enters a tree through a wound (such as a scraped area in the bark, or a cut limb), establishes within the sapwood (where the water-conducting cells are located), and eventually stops water flow within the tree. Months or even a year may pass before the tree shows outward symptoms. ROD causes green leaves of entire trees to turn yellow, then brown, in just a few days to several weeks. This rapid progression is how the disease got its name, Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death.

Researchers recently discovered that the disease symptoms people see are actually caused by two different introduced species of fungus in the genus Ceratocystis. The species cause slightly different symptoms, but the differences are too subtle to tell apart in the field. The species are genetically unique from any other fungal species ever found associated with ʻōhiʻa, and will soon receive their own new species names.

In Hawaiʻi, ʻōhiʻa gather the rain that recharges our island aquifers. In that same way, ʻōhiʻa have also gathered scientists, managers, educators, cultural practitioners, and many more groups together to combat Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death. A large partnership of non-governmental and governmental organizations formed a ROD Working Group in 2015 to coordinate research, management, and outreach. This working group has facilitated important advances in our understanding and tracking of ROD, through aerial surveys and field detection, mapping suspect ROD-affected trees and areas, and identifying the potential vectors that most likely spread the disease.

The ROD working group has also assisted the Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture by providing science-based support for a quarantine rule restricting movement of ʻōhiʻa material and soil off of Hawaiʻi Island- including the movement of ʻōhiʻa firewood and posts. A statewide ROD prevention program reaches thousands of Hawaiʻi’s residents and visitors every day through printed media, radio, internet, community talks, school presentations, landowner visits, and informational tables.

Excerpted image from “5 Things You Can Do To Reduce the Spread of ROD rack card” 

Researchers do have hope despite the severity of the ROD situation. ʻŌhiʻa is a highly variable genus with eight named varieties of Metrosideros polymorpha and four other species of Metrosideros found on older Hawaiian Islands. With such high genetic diversity ROD researchers are testing the different varieties and species to see if disease resistance exists naturally. Another area of hope lies in observations of heavily impacted forests. Where ROD-related ʻōhiʻa tree loss has been the worst, meaning 75% or greater, researchers still see living, apparently healthy trees. Future studies will test cuttings from those healthy individuals to see if the trees are resistant to ROD.

For more information, visit:

Protecting Massachusetts Campgrounds and Natural Resources

This blog was originally posted on the Massachusetts Introduced Pests Outreach Blog on March 7th 2017.

Though it’s cold outside now, the spring camping season is rapidly approaching! While many campers like to bring their own firewood to campsites, the invasive wood-boring insects Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) and emerald ash borer make frequent use of firewood to transport themselves to new infestation sites. Worcester has already lost 36,000 trees to date due to the ALB, so the economic and environmental risk these invasive pests pose to the rest of New England’s hardwood forests is immense.

In order to help spread awareness of these pests and the risk they pose, we offer a variety of free outreach materials, including ID cards, pamphlets, and laminated posters suitable for display outdoors. We (staff at Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources) also offer “Don’t Move Firewood” material that encourages campers to buy their own firewood at campsites. You can order your free materials using this Google Docs form.

Campers should be aware of the risks involved in moving firewood, even to nearby towns. It is a good idea to be aware of where at each campground you can purchase firewood.

If you want to update your campground’s website with information pertaining to invasive forest, here is some suggested wording:
Bringing firewood from home when you go camping could put your favorite campsite in danger. Tree-killing insects and diseases can hitchhike in firewood and use it to spread to new areas. Instead of bringing firewood with you when you go camping, buy firewood from a location close to where you camp.

For more information, see:

It is the responsibility of all Massachusetts citizens and visitors to make sure we are preserving our natural resources, and being aware of these invasive insects and how to combat their spread is part of that.

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Having Fun with Outreach at the Vermont Flower Show

Guest blog by Meredith Whitney, Forest Pest Outreach Coordinator with University of Vermont Extension

Thousands of Vermonters come out of the woodwork every other year to witness the colors, smells, and excitement of the Vermont Flower Show. Upon arrival to the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction, Vermont visitors first walk through the main garden display. As the Forest Pest Outreach Coordinator with the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry Program, I have the opportunity to attend events such as the Flower Show, where I can reach large numbers of highly engaged members of the public.

This year, we paid for a 10 x 10 booth in the exhibition hall and displayed large images of the emerald ash borer (EAB) and Asian longhorned beetle (ALB). The Flower Show was a terrific opportunity to use one of the two interactive “face-in-hole” banners that we recently designed. The banners are a fun way to spread the message about not moving firewood and work perfectly for social media posts. Having interactive components to our displays has doubled the number of people who stop by. The banners appeal to young children, their parents, and to many millennials- and each person that takes a photo creates a permanent and shareable reminder about these forest pests, right inside their smartphone!

The Flower Show was bustling this year. All three days were busy and our booth was always full of people asking questions about invasive insects. We recorded 719 people that came and looked at the display. I was surprised at how much people already knew. Nearly everyone who stopped by had heard of at least one of the two pests. The most common response I heard was, “I’ve seen those!” Since neither EAB or ALB have been detected in Vermont yet, I would walk people over to the insect samples, showing them how small the EAB really is, or how similar ALB is to the native six-spotted tiger beetle.

In many cases people felt hopeless at first, and they ask if there is anything they can do about the emerald ash borer. Much like me, they are stunned that it hasn’t shown up in Vermont yet. Last year, Vermont passed a law banning the importation of untreated firewood into the state. We tell them that the simplest and easiest way to slow the spread of invasive species is to buy firewood where you burn it. It is my hope that exhibits like ours at the Flower Show will inspire people to do their part and make a difference.

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New website and new resources!

We are very excited to welcome everyone to the newly renovated Don’t Move Firewood website. While we are still working out a couple finer details, please do take a look around and acquaint yourself with our new navigation and features!

Highlights of our new site include:

  • The new site will work equally well on a laptop, desktop, tablet, or smartphone. Readable, clickable, loadable!
  • Bright and engaging 2017 outreach designs are just getting started. See the first two, our basic poster and basic brochure, here!
  • Our new Resource Library is cleaned up, easily searched, and easily sorted. We’re adding new materials every day.
  • All states and provinces are now defined on our Firewood Map. We are working with several Canadian agencies to create each specific province summaries, just like we’ve done for the 50 US states. Stay tuned!

Webinar: Eleven Years of Firewood Behavior Change Research on March 2

Join us for a FOCI webinar, Eleven Years of Firewood Behavior Change Research: what is working, and where should we go from here? on March 2nd at 3pm Eastern. This webinar will focus on the elements of firewood use related behavior changes that we have been able to quantify via The Nature Conservancy’s public polling data from 2005 to 2016 .

This webinar is being offered in coordination with National Invasive Species Awareness Week. Many thanks to Chuck Bargeron and the Bugwood Team for coordinating this shared educational opportunity!

This webinar is now completed!

Webinar: The People Have Spoken on Jan 25 2017

Join us for a FOCI webinar, The People Have Spoken: Using Forest and Firewood National Polling Data to Promote Forest Health, on January 25 at 11am MDT (1pm Eastern). This webinar will discuss results from a national survey of citizen attitudes toward invasive species, firewood movement, and forest health. This webinar is jointly sponsored by the SREF Forest Health and Invasive Species Program and the Firewood Outreach Coordinating Initiative.

Invasive species are a major forest health threat in North America, costing federal, state, and local governments billions of dollars annually for monitoring, management, and mitigation of impacts.  Landowners are often negatively affected when forest ecosystems are changed and they lose valuable trees to invasive pests.  Human-mediated movement of invasive species is a common method in which pests travel long distances.  Using data from a national survey of U.S. citizens, this webinar will discuss people’s attitudes and knowledge towards invasive species and the relationship with firewood.  We will consider these data, and the common perceptions of individuals who routinely frequent the outdoors, in the broader context of forest health.

This webinar is now completed!