News Release: Strategies Identified for Successful Outreach to Reduce the Spread of Forest Pests on Firewood

Press Release for August 1, 2022
Contact: Angelica Solano: lsolano@clemson.edu

Collaborative study determines effective messengers, language choices, and modes of delivery for disseminating educational information on how firewood choices can impact forest health.

A recent study done in collaboration between The Nature Conservancy’s Don’t Move Firewood campaign and researchers from Clemson University showed that most people in the United States don’t know firewood can harbor invasive forest insects and diseases, but when targeted education materials are used effectively, they can learn and are likely to change their behavior. Researchers analyzed data from five surveys conducted from 2005 to 2016 to investigate what outreach on the firewood pathway can accomplish, and what are the most effective messengers and methods when educating the public on invasive pests and forest health.

The study showed less than half of the public (39%) said they have heard or seen firewood messaging and less than a quarter (19%) were aware of state laws or firewood regulations. Angelica Solano, lead author of the recent study published in Biological Invasions, said “we got feedback directly from the public on how to communicate better with them about insects and diseases spreading through firewood. We found that while the Don’t Move Firewood campaign and its partners have demonstrably increased the public’s awareness, there’s a strong need for continued and improved collaborative outreach efforts via effective modes, messengers, language choices, and message framing.”

Findings from the study suggest that the two best ways to reach the public with firewood educational messages are through campsite reservation confirmation emails and flyers handed out at parks. Additionally, the results of the study indicate that people trust forestry-related public agencies the most to learn about forest health issues.

Combining both pre-visit digital messaging with physical outreach materials when a visitor arrives improves the likelihood that the public will encounter and incorporate safer firewood behaviors over time. As Solano states, “conveying information directly to the public in ways that they will pay attention to, rather than having them look for the information, should improve message delivery.”

For all types of outreach materials, success hinges on effective phrasing to generate attention, and a positive framing was found to be most effective. As Solano said, “messages should focus on encouraging the public to make better choices, including how they will benefit from such choices. Using clear examples and language that encourage a positive call to action or ‘promotion’ rather than a reactive or ‘prevention’ approach, should be the first choice by outreach professionals.”

Finally, outreach campaigns focused on invasive species and forest health are wise to collaborate with state agencies to coordinate educational outreach efforts. Forestry-related public agencies, including both state and federal forest professionals, are the most likely to be trusted and heard. According to Solano, “Outreach groups like non-profits, universities, and others that partner with trusted state and federal forest agencies will improve their message delivery, which in turn increases awareness.”

Awareness Increased over Time from Firewood Education Campaigns

Results of the study show that more than a decade of dedicated efforts by firewood educational campaigns like Don’t Move Firewood have led not only to increased awareness, but increased concern over the spread of harmful insects and pathogens via the firewood pathway.

“It’s great to see confirmation that our messages and outreach techniques are working- and it’s wonderful to have solid direction on where there is room for improvement,” said Leigh Greenwood, The Nature Conservancy’s Don’t Move Firewood program director. “Outreach needs to change with the times, so that we can reach people in the most effective ways possible. This study gives us the information we need to protect trees and forests from the pests that travel on the firewood pathway.”

To access the study in Biological Invasions, visit:
Solano, A., Rodriguez, S.L., Greenwood, L., Rosopa, P.J., and Coyle, D.R. 2022. Achieving effective outreach for invasive species: firewood case studies from 2005-2016. Biological Invasions.
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10530-022-02848-w

To access the study via Springer Nature SharedIt, visit:
https://rdcu.be/cRRVH

To request a copy of this study from the author, contact the lead author at lsolano@g.clemson.edu

To learn more about Don’t Move Firewood and the ways you can help prevent the spread of harmful forest pests and diseases please visit https://www.dontmovefirewood.org/

To download a pdf version of this press release click here: Solano 2022 press_release_FINAL

Free Downloads for Tree Check Month 2022

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:

Template text to paste into outreach statements:

  • Report findings by calling 1-866-702-9938 or completing an online form at www.AsianLonghornedBeetle.com
  • (Your organization can help by encouraging the public to check / You can help by checking) trees for signs of the Asian longhorned beetle in August. Look for round exit holes, shallow scars in the bark, sawdust-like material on or around tree, and the beetle itself.

Past blogs and News Releases:

Social Media Tips:

Educational Videos:

General Information:

Highlights: States with Excellent Firewood Outreach

We want to recognize the excellent efforts shown by the following states- each of which provide great examples of consistency and thoroughness in their outreach on firewood and forest health!

An online outreach environment integrated across different state agencies and jurisdictions greatly increases the chance visitors will encounter important information on invasive species as they relate to forest health and the firewood pathway. This year we undertook the meticulous task of hunting through the internet in search of firewood outreach for every US state and territory across the following four key metrics: 1) state agency (non-parks) site, 2) cooperative extension site, 3) state lands/parks management site, and 4) recommendations found during the booking process for reserving a state parks campsite.

Out of the 50 US states and 5 territories, we’ve chosen some of the best online outreach examples among four states to highlight their excellent online firewood outreach. Easily accessible information as well as repetition and consistency work together to drive the message home that responsible firewood choices make a difference. Everyone has a part to play in the conservation of our natural resources! Below you’ll find some of the best firewood-focused pages as well as comments from some of the people hard at work in these states to spread the word on firewood and forest health.

Michigan

Check out the centralized page that Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has on firewood outreach: Firewood Facts: Buy It Where You Burn It . Several related pages were found that really lay out the rules and best practices for firewood use in the state including: Firewood Local Rules and Laws, Firewood Education and Outreach: Spread of Invasives, and Firewood Certification and Standards. These pages provide easy to read information in multiple locations, increasing the chance that the messages reach their intended audience.

“Michigan has a strong commitment to healthy forests and urban landscapes, and we’ve experienced the devastating impacts of invasive species on these important resources,” said Joanne Foreman, Michigan Department of Natural Resources invasive species communications coordinator. “Early adoption of the “Don’t Move Firewood” campaign, state support for an interagency invasive species program and collaboration with Michigan State University Extension assures coordination of our firewood outreach and policy efforts.”

Icon with embedded link to firewood rules page found with high visibility on general Michigan State Parks page.

 

South Carolina

South Carolina Forestry Commission has an informative centralized Forest Health: Don’t Move Firewood page promoting responsible firewood use and best practices, as well as clearly written resources on Clemson’s Department of Plant Industry regulatory services page, Firewood Movement. Together, these two pages reinforce South Carolina’s firewood messages.

“We believe that addressing forest pest issues, like the movement of infested firewood, is best achieved through education that happens early and often- and we are fortunate in South Carolina to have so many other agencies and organizations proactively communicating with the public” says Haley Ritger of Clemson University’s Department of Plant Industry. “These collaborative efforts mean that people who live, work, or recreate around South Carolina forests are consistently learning how they can protect our natural resources from forest pests.”

 

Banner add found at the top of SC Forestry Commission page on firewood.

 

Indiana

Indiana Department of Natural Resources has a centralized Firewood Rules page with clear and concise information on the firewood allowed on state lands. Links to this resource were found with complimentary imagery throughout related agency sites and pages, which increases the chance that visitors will find this resource without actively searching for it.

“Outreach is something we really concentrate on here in the Indiana DNR.” says Megan Abraham, the State Plant Regulatory Official in Indiana. “We have really great partners, including- our DNR staff (Parks and Forestry), agricultural extension in each of our 92 counties, our Purdue University Partners assisting us with Forest Pest Outreach and webinars like EAB University, and most importantly our landholders and members of the general public- and they are what makes us successful in discovering and managing the invasive species that Indiana has found within its borders.”

 

Firewood graphic with embedded link found on agency pest page in Indiana. We strongly recommend including firewood information and resources on all relevant pages.

 

Nebraska

Check out Nebraska’s Invasive Species Program page: Don’t Move Firewood! for some great ideas on how to highlight the firewood pathway. This is an excellent example of an invasive species program affiliated with a state university that gives firewood the attention it needs with clear firewood guidelines and plenty of resources for visitors to learn more. This page even has a DMF video!

 

NE also provides a great example of how to include firewood recommendations in a state with no regulations on the movement of firewood onto state lands. This tidbit is found with high visibility on the State Parks Camping page.

Firewood regulation, certification, and recommendation report

Many firewood-relevant regulatory changes happened in 2021 across the United States, due in large part to two separate pest related events; the deregulation of emerald ash borer, and a long term regional shift in the Eastern states’ approach to thousand cankers of walnut. With these changes and more at hand, in Fall and Winter 2021-2022 the team at Don’t Move Firewood wrote a comprehensive research and synthesis report of firewood regulations, certification, and outreach statuses, with the goal to provide simple and accurate professional comparative summaries for each major topic area.

The full report, with state and territory appendices, is now available to download here: FirewoodComparisonReport_July2022_re-issue

Multiple webinars will cover the report and its findings.

  • February 23rd 2022: Hawaii Invasive Species Awareness Month, Hawaii focus. Recording not available.
  • March 1st, 2022: Emerald Ash Borer University, National focus. Recording available here: Find on EABU page | Watch on YouTube
  • March 4th, 2022 at noon Eastern: National Invasive Species Awareness Week, National focus. Watch on YouTube
  • March 16th, 2022 at 11am Mountain time: Western EAB Cooperator Pre-Meeting Session. Specific focus on western states and emerald ash borer. Watch on YouTube
  • April 2022: Western Plant Board. Recording not available.
  • April 2022: Western Forest Insect Work Conference. Recording not available.

 

Build on the power of birdwatching!

Did you know that 20% of US residents identify themselves as a birdwatcher, bird lover, or birder? That’s a LOT of binocular wielding citizen scientists! Does that include… YOU?

Here at Don’t Move Firewood, we’d like to invite all the birdwatchers that participate in the Christmas Bird Count, Great Backyard Bird Count, or just everyday birding adventures, to take a few moments to inspect the trees that their birds depend on for signs of forest pests. The easiest thing to do is to look around for holes in trees- and we’ve made a special handout called the Birdwatcher’s Guide to Holes in Trees for just that purpose. Download the handout, read through it, and familiarize yourself with the three basic types of holes in trees- holes made by typical bird foraging, holes made by birds foraging on invasive insects, and holes made by the invasive insects themselves.

BUT WAIT! Are you a forest health professional?  Multiply your impact by reaching out to your local Audubon Society (or other birdwatching group) representative to get Holes in Trees handouts to each birder that they know! You can either choose to print out physical copies and provide them, or just email the PDF to various birding listservers. You are responsible for contacting and educating your local bird groups- and remember, they are usually volunteers, so please be respectful of their time and desire to help (or a lack thereof!).

Good luck, and keep an eye out for Holes In Trees!

 

Photo of emerald ash borer exit hole and woodpecker foraging hole, credit D. Cappaert

This page was initially published in 2014 as Harness the power of Birdwatchers