Press Release: Preserve Fall Color – Don’t Move Firewood

Press Release for October 8, 2014

Preserve Fall Color – Don’t Move Firewood

Leaf watchers may unwittingly transport bug invaders

Fall is a busy time in the Southern Blue Ridge, with thousands of leaf peepers traveling to see the annual display. But, that beautiful foliage could be destroyed by visitors who bring firewood from outside the area. That’s because forest pests love nothing better than catching a fast ride on infested firewood.

“The fall tourist season is important to our economy,” says Trish Johnson, Director of Forest Conservation for the Tennessee Chapter of the Conservancy. “We need to keep our forest healthy to keep the tourists coming. It’s sad to think that some of the very people who are coming here to enjoy the leaves may be unwittingly bringing the very thing that will destroy those leaves.”

The Nature Conservancy and its conservation partners, including the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service as well as state agencies across the Southern Blue Ridge, are working to educate the public about the need to use downed local wood that is gathered on site or buy wood that has been heat treated, killing potential pests.

“We’re trying to combat the rapid spread of tree-destroying pests,” says Johnson. “Naturally, these bugs don’t move very fast – just a mile or so a year. But, put a person in a car bringing their firewood to the Smokies and those pests can travel hundreds of miles in a day. Everything we can do to stop and slow the spread of these bugs is a good thing for our forests.”

Research shows that infestations of pests such as the emerald ash borer, which kills ash trees, often start at campgrounds. The likely culprit is people accidentally bringing in contaminated firewood. Many other pests of heightened concern, like the Asian longhorned beetle and gypsy moth, can also hitchhike on firewood- posing risks to iconic fall foliage trees like the crimson red maples, rich golden oaks, and many more.

The Tennessee Chapter of The Nature Conservancy has developed a web site to help people locate vendors of the certified heat-treated wood: firewoodscout.org

Information about the risk of moving firewood can be found at www.dontmovefirewood.org

More information about specific insect and disease threats to Tennessee’s forests, as well as management options and quarantine regulations, can be found at www.ProtectTNForests.org

More information about specific insect and disease threats to North Carolina’s forests, as well as monitoring information, can be found at http://www.ncforestservice.gov/forest_health/forest_health.htm