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
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.
My family has a camping reservation at Riley Creek Recreation Area in Idaho. We live in Post Falls, Idaho; and are wondering if we can bring our own firewood, locally harvested, to the facility?
There are no quarantines that restrict the movement of firewood in your general area, and the state of Idaho suggests using firewood from within the region- and ideally within 50 miles of its source. From Post Falls to the Riley Creek area is just about 50 miles, and it doesn’t appear that campground has any additional restrictions beyond Idaho’s recommendations. With all that in mind, you should be fine to use your own locally cut firewood for this camping trip. Thank you for asking!
It is that time of year again, when people are taking down dead trees as part of summer property maintenance and then they ask us…
Dear Don’t Move Firewood,
Is there a place I can donate my wood in the Rockford, Ilinois area? / Is there anyone in the San Francisco, CA area that takes firewood donations? / I live in Fort Washington MD and I have firewood I want to donate. Where can I go?
Three Well Meaning Firewood Owners
Every single town and area is different, so it is best to “let your fingers do the walking” as the old phone book ads used to say. Once you’ve positively confirmed that moving firewood in your area is legal in the first place using our Firewood Regulations Summary Map, I suggest the following:
Call up local food banks and ask if they take firewood donations
Call local churches or other types of aid organizations and ask if they take firewood donations
Use internet searches for the word “wood bank” and the names of towns in your immediate vicinity (i.e. Springfield Wood Bank, etc) to see if there is any mention of a wood bank anywhere near you.
Thanks for having good intentions with that extra firewood!
Can we burn scrap utility power poles in campgrounds? Of course, these would be nail/screws/plate free, just wood.
Dear Scrappy Idea,
Wood utility poles are nearly always heavily treated with one or several preservative chemicals to prevent rot and insect infestation. The chemicals that are most common in North America are pentachlorophenol, chromated copper arsenate, copper naphthenate, creosote, and ammoniacal copper zinc arsenate. These preservatives include heavy metals and other hazardous chemicals – and therefore this potential wood source would be very hazardous both to your health, and to air quality, to burn in a campfire, fire pit, or wood stove setting. I would highly urge you to find another source of wood for campfires, whether that’s gathering wood near your campsite when permitted, or purchasing local firewood.
Thank you for asking!
Editor’s Note: we edit, shorten, and make anonymous all Dear Don’t Move Firewood entries- but they are all derived from real emails or Facebook posts!
Our ash tree fell in a storm. We know about not using it for firewood or transporting it, but what can we do? It is a 20 year old tree that was 20 foot tall. Thanks.
Hopeful Tree Reuser
Dear Hopeful Tree Reuser,
You are welcome to use your ash tree for firewood if you are burning it in the immediate vicinity of where the tree grew- whether in your own woodstove, your patio fire pit, or even your next door neighbor’s wood stove, too. The problem with ash trees and moving firewood is when you move the wood miles and miles away from where the tree grew, but burning it locally is fine. Please note, without knowing exactly where you live, I can’t say for sure that moving this wood off your own property is legal- so do check on local regulations if you intend to move the wood past your own property line, just to be safe. Regulations vary greatly across the country and even sometimes between cities.
The main practical alternative to burning it as firewood would be chipping it up into mulch. You can often rent chippers, or get a landscaping company to do this for a fee. Another idea is that if your area has municipal composting, you can bring it there to be chipped and turned into fresh soil. And last but not least, if the tree is in a place where it isn’t bothering anybody, you can just leave it there. Of course, that only makes sense if you have a large property, but it is an option!
Oh, and one last thing to keep in mind- if you believe your tree is/was infested with emerald ash borer, and you’d like to minimize the chance that the fallen tree allows more beetles to emerge this year, you should dispose of it as soon as possible.
Can firewood be transported inside the state of Florida for approximately 450 miles?
Within the state of Florida, multiple state authorities highly encourage that everyone uses local sources of firewood- and local is define as cut/harvested within 50 miles of where it will be used. This recommendation is in place to prevent the movement of pests within Florida, such as laurel wilt disease, imported fire ant, giant African snail, and others. The answer to your question it therefore that while it is not illegal to move firewood 450 miles within Florida, it is very highly discouraged. Instead, we advise buying or harvesting firewood within 50 miles of your destination, to minimize the chances of moving invasive insects and diseases. Thank you for asking!
Can we bring our own firewood to Cougar Rock campground in Mount Rainier National Park? Thanks.
Upcoming Washington Camper
Dear Upcoming Washington Camper,
Yes, it looks like Cougar Rock Campground in Mount Rainier National Park allows you to bring your own firewood- but they highly recommend it was gathered or purchased within 50 miles of the park. The park itself prohibits collecting firewood within the boundaries, so bringing in local firewood is going to be the best option for sure. Washington state as a whole recommends buying or gathering firewood locally, and not bringing in wood from out of state- so if you are traveling to the park from Oregon, Idaho, or elsewhere, please make sure to buy firewood once you reach the area of Mount Rainier!
TL/DR the answer to your question is that if you are bringing in your own local firewood from a local source, that’s fine- but please don’t bring in firewood from more than 50 miles away.
I’m bringing my son to Kings Canyon National Park to camp pretty soon. I’m trying to figure if the (brand removed “fake” firewood) logs are OK for us to bring. I understand your policy doesn’t permit you to endorse products but I’m not asking for that. I’m just trying to make sure I line up everything as needed before we set off for our 2nd camping trip of our lives 🙂 Thank you so much.
Dear Upcoming Camper,
All the pre-packaged compressed wood products that I’ve seen on the market are typically fine to bring into campgrounds. I have never seen them prohibited, and certainly to the very best of my knowledge they are fine in Kings Canyon National Park. You should be totally good to go!
For more information on these products and the Don’t Move Firewood opinion on “fake” firewood, see the following archived blogs.
What about scrap lumber, 2x4s and such? Since the original lumber is moved around the country before I buy it at the lumber yard, it doesn’t seem that restricting its movement could have any impact on the pest problem. Can I safely carry around a box of 2×4 scraps to use as kindling….and obtain “real” wood at the site? Would California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Idaho and Colorado have any problem with that?
Thifty Lumber Saver
Scrap 2×4 lumber (or similar) that has been stored in a clean and dry indoor location- to prevent infestation from insects or soil after the lumber was cut- is typically fine to use, and generally not prohibited by the states you listed. The only exception that is worth noting is that some campgrounds prohibit the use of scrap lumber because of safety risk to their workers of nails, brackets, strongties, etc being left in fire pits. Check ahead of time, just in case that’s the case.