Take This One Step to Protect Trees on Memorial Day

Are you planning to start your camping season off right this Memorial Day weekend?

This blog first ran on 5/20/2015 at Conservancy Talk, a blog by The Nature Conservancy

Here’s one simple way to combine your desire to protect the environment with your plans to have a great time outdoors: don’t move firewood from your home or backyard to your campsite.

Firewood can contain hitchhiking forest pests — often invisible to the naked eye in the form of tiny insect eggs or larvae hidden deep inside the wood — and these tiny organisms can be enough to destroy whole ecosystems.

Now more than ever, all outdoor enthusiasts need to know that they should be getting their firewood by one of the following ways: buying it at or near their campsite, gathering it on site when permitted, or buying certified heat treated firewood with a either a state seal or a USDA APHIS seal of compliance.

These three options all work to prevent the movement of invasive forest pests.

It is up to you to figure out which source of firewood works best for your camping trip. Just remember the simple rule: don’t move firewood. Bringing firewood from your home isn’t safe for the forest, and in fact it is often against state or federal regulations.

By buying it where you’ll burn it, you are helping prevent the movement of damaging forest pests like the emerald ash borer, Asian longhorned beetle, spongy moth, and others.

These pests don’t move far on their own, but when unsuspecting campers move contaminated firewood, they can start new infestations, spreading the problem farther and wider.


These small D-shaped holes are a sign that an ash tree is infested with the emerald ash borer. Photo © Dan Herms, Ohio State University, ForestryImages.org

Forest pests can be devastating to not just the trees they infest, but to entire ecosystems. You might not realize it, but millions of trees have been lost, and whole species of trees have been driven to the brink of extinction — all because of forest pests.

Starting with the accidental introductions of forest pests like white pine blister rust and European spongy moth in the late 1800s and continuing to recent discoveries of Asian longhorned beetle and emerald ash borer over 100 years later, forests pests are not a new problem.

Fortunately, forest managers and scientists all over North America are continuously working to slow the spread of invasives, contain the infestations that can be eradicated, and educate the public on how they can help.

And indeed, the silver lining to this story is this: you can help. You can tell everyone — your friends, your family, your neighbors — don’t move firewood. Instead buy or gather it on site, or buy certified heat treated wood before you go.

If you aren’t sure if there will be firewood for sale at your campsite, take a minute to call ahead to find out if you can simply collect it on site.

By doing the right thing and educating others, you become part of the solution. You can rest easy this Memorial Day weekend knowing that the source of your campfire is good for the forest!