We are excited to announce the Don’t Move Firewood campaign’s very first Firewood Month Partners Graphics Awards! We are so grateful for the amazing work our partners do to protect forests across North America, as well as the effort they put into amplifying the important messaging on best firewood practices. We were thrilled to see so many social media posts and e-newsletters sporting Don’t Move Firewood graphics, hashtags, and messaging. In addition to sharing our outreach materials, we saw many of you post your own awesome pictures, graphics, and infographics during the 2021 Firewood Month. And while they were all pretty great, we would like to highlight what we considered to be the best of the best!
So, without further ado…
The 2021 Partner Award: Best Firewood Month Infographic goes to Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources! Shared by PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources on October 29, 2021 via Facebook and Twitter
The 2021 Partner Award: Most Compelling Firewood Month Visuals goes to BOTH Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry AND Minnesota Department of Agriculture Image created by Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Shared, with permission, by Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry on October 7, 2021 via Facebook
The 2021 Partner Award:Best Pest Profile with Call to Action goes to Mississippi Bug Blues Shared by Mississippi Bug Blues on October 25, 2021 via Facebook and Twitter
Finally, the 2021 Partner Honorable Mention: Best Firewood Month Turn of Phrase goes to Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service! This was posted during Firewood Month LAST year (2020), but we loved it so much we decided to give it an award anyway. Shared by the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service on October 19, 2020 via Facebook
Thank you to all our partners for sharing your important and creative content; these messages encourage best firewood practices, protect forests from harmful forest pests and diseases, and work together to create a comprehensive Firewood Month approach across the country. We would not have the impact we do without YOUR help and support. And remember, while Firewood Month 2021 may be over, your firewood choices matter all year long!
Guest blog by Laurel Downs, The Nature Conservancy
The overall goal of the Don’t Move Firewood campaign boils down to protecting trees in North America from destructive pests and diseases. We want to heighten awareness around the fact that infested or contaminated firewood is one of the most common ways by which invasive forest pests spread to new areas. We provide direct and simple information on 1) how firewood can spread pests, 2) the pests themselves, and 3) what practices we recommend to avoid spreading pests on firewood. This is a classic educational effort to change human behavior; people can help protect trees by making responsible firewood choices.
If only. Turns out people are much more complicated than that, and stacks on stacks of research suggests that information alone is not enough. A science communication strategy that assumes people will alter their behavior with new information – the knowledge-deficit model – often falls short because factors such as values, attitudes, social norms (essentially the desire to fit in), and socioeconomic circumstances are key drivers of human behavior. To be effective, our campaign’s messaging needs to not only inform, but appeal to the wildly variable population that our campaign aims to reach- basically anyone and everyone who ever uses firewood.
Thus emerges the profoundly important old adage “it’s not what you say, but how you say it.” Except, now we know that it also matters when you say it. And how often. And in what context. And with what graphics. And on what platform… because merely getting the word out morphs into somewhat of a monumental task when you consider the competitive digital landscape the whole world now deals with. Ads, current events, politics, social media, and other modern-day distractions bombard the senses of just about everyone with an internet connection. The complex algorithms that generate much of what we see day-to-day online can be an obstacle as well, since our conservation-based communications are likely to disproportionately reach people who are already conservation-minded. Many of the folks we reach may already know about the risks involved with moving firewood. In other words, we might be preaching to the choir… and that wastes time and money. We need to reach everyone in the big tent original audience- i.e., all firewood users.
Whew. So many obstacles. How do we cope? Why do we try?
Well, because anyone who is passionate about conservation knows we’ve got to keep on truckin’. It’s true that passing along the straight-forward notion of using local firewood presents a challenge in and of itself. It’s also true that even when our message manages to escape the void, bounce off the choir, and finally inform a new firewood user, it may not change their behavior. But it’s a crucial first step. And in our efforts to navigate the complexity of the human psyche, we put painstaking thought into Every. Single. Word. (Sometimes every syllable! Check out our Facebook page for our new “Hump Day Haiku” series every Wednesday. It’s fire.)
Thankfully, we’re not making our communication choices in the dark. Many years of research help inform our wording, the audiences we try to reach, and even what sorts of graphics we use. Most recently, the Don’t Move Firewood campaign collaborated with researchers at Clemson University to help better understand their big public polling datasets on the most effective phrasing and messengers for a positive response among the public; that research should be published soon so that everyone can benefit from the in-depth look it provides. Additionally, this past summer the Don’t Move Firewood campaign hired summer analysts who spent countless hours researching, synthesizing, and translating stiff regulatory information into succinct summaries so folks can quickly learn the firewood rules and recommendations in their area or destination (see our Firewood Map). We also regularly reach out to diverse stakeholders and coordinate with governmental, non-governmental, academic, and industry partners alike to amplify important firewood messaging as well as keep our information up-to-date.
Ultimately, while the inner workings of our outreach campaign are complex, we try to keep our message as simple as possible. Prevention is our best defense against invasive species, and everyone has the power to take preventative measures to protect our forests. For starters, please… Don’t Move Firewood.
Guest blog by Laurel Downs, The Nature Conservancy
Last summer I sat on the back porch of my parents’ house along the Schuylkill River in Berks County, Pennsylvania and watched what I thought was a very peculiar weevil-like bug awkwardly wander across the floorboards. Gangling legs moved like feelers topped with a broad body that tapered into a mile-long face saddled with bulging black eyes.
Out came the smartphone for identification- identifying all things animal or insect is my favorite. Low and behold this creature was not an adorably awkward weevil but the nymph stage of a notorious new invasive – the spotted lanternfly. Spotted lanternflies are native to Asia, and they were first officially detected in Berks County Pennsylvania in 2014 (but they were likely meandering porches and tree trunks about two years prior to that.) The first three immature (called “instar”) stages give the nymph a black body speckled with white dots. The fourth and final instar comes with a vibrant red coloration throughout the body; it retains the red to some extent in the winged adult phase.
Well, you know what they say, once you’re looking for a white truck, you see them everywhere. (Do they say that?) Sure enough, my mom and I started spotting the goofy little buggers all over. Live ones, dead ones, and empty exoskeletons with circular holes in the top – maybe predation or metamorphosis?
Anyway, this year I stuck around long enough to see the nymphs turn into just-as-awkward, yet oddly beautiful adults. Appreciation for aesthetics aside, these invasive insects are more trouble than they’re worth. So much so that the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture asks for the public’s help in their spotted lanternfly alert in which they give the following advice for those who encounter the insect:
“Kill it! Squash it, smash it…just get rid of it.”
It’s important to note that in many places, you should both squish AND report these pests. Here in Berks county, we’ve had this pest for a while- but in many places, it’s very important to report it if you see them!
As a nature lover, killing is not a go-to task for me with any living creature, but with the SLF, it may be necessary considering the serious threat these insects present to our natural, agricultural, and cultural resources. The spotted lanternfly (SLF) feed on, and subsequently damage, many tree species and crops; to add insult to injury, they produce a sugary excrement known as “honeydew” in the process which attracts stinging insects and sooty black mold. At the very least, a generous coat of sticky-sweet bug poo everywhere can put a real damper on one’s ability to enjoy outdoor recreation, but SLF infestation poses an even greater threat to the health of our farms and forests- and they’re spreading.
In 2021, PA expanded their SLF quarantine, and many nearby states are following suit. While the insect is able to fly, humans are likely to facilitate their spread in rapid fashion by unwittingly chauffeuring them and/or their eggs. Each female SLF can lay between 30-50 eggs which she will happily plop down on almost ANY outdoor structure; we’re talkin’ cars, RVs, lawn furniture, plastic flamingos (probably), camping gear, and you guessed it, firewood.
Luckily more and more Pennsylvania folk are recognizing this flamboyant bug and taking the necessary…um…steps…to, quite literally, squash the problem. It’s not much, but it’s an honest effort on behalf of the public to be mindful of their surroundings and the threats to our resources. It will take more, however, to contain the spread of these conspicuous troublemakers. Fall is upon us and this is when females begin to lay rather inconspicuous eggs.
So, if you are traveling anywhere this fall, make sure to check over your vehicle and recreational items before taking them across county lines. If you are living or staying in an area quarantined for spotted lanternfly, use this checklist to ensure you don’t leave with any tree-pest stowaways looking for new territory. And please, for the love of our forests, leave your firewood at home. Buy it where you burn it.