How Firewood Damages Trees

Why is moving firewood such a bad idea?

Tree-killing insects and diseases can lurk in firewood. These insects and diseases can't move far on their own, but when people move firewood they can jump hundreds of miles. New infestations destroy our forests, property values, and cost huge sums of money to control.

How far is too far to move firewood? And what do you mean by "local" firewood?

When we say local firewood, we are referring to the closest convenient source of wood that you can find. That might be from down the street, or provincial park. As a very general rule of thumb, 50 miles is too far, and 10 miles or less is best. In many placesthere are rules, regulations, and quarantines that clearly state how far is too far. Some areas have laws about crossing their border with firewood, and the fines can be hefty.

My firewood has no bugs, holes, burrows, sawdust, or other weird looking stuff on it. Is it OK to transport it?

Even the experts can't always see a couple of pin-head sized insect eggs, or a few microscopic fungus spores, in a pile of wood. These tiny threats are enough to destroy an entire ecosystem. Never assume wood that "looks safe" is OK to move- it is next to impossible for anyone to inspect firewood that closely.

What can I do with the fallen wood and brush from my property?

Firewood, brush, and debris from the trees and woods on your property poses no threat to your trees, or to anyone else's trees, as long as you don't move it very far. Letting it rot is totally fine. Chipping it to use as mulch under your shrubs is a good idea. Burning it in your stove or fire pit is fun and practical. Even bringing it to a nearby landfill or composting facility is OK, as long as that facility is right in your town. The problem would be if you take it to your cabin a few counties away, or if you stack it on the roadside for strangers to pick up and take it to who-knows-where. That's what you want to avoid- moving it far poses a risk to the trees in that new location.

If I burn all of my wood completely, is it OK to bring it from far away?

While this might seem reasonable. the answer is still that you should not be moving firewood. There are simply too many unknowns. What if a little chip of bark falls unnoticed onto the forest floor- and that chip contains invasive insect larvae? Or what if there is a sudden rainstorm, washing fungus spores off the wood, out of the back of your pickup, and into the grass? Even if you intend to burn all the wood completely, you still need to make sure it is local wood. The risks are simply too big.

Oh no- too late! I already moved firewood! How can I dispose of it properly?

The best option is to burn it quickly and completely. A bonfire is best, while slower methods (like making sure it all ends up in the wood stove ASAP) are also OK. Make sure to also rake up any dropped leaves, bark, twigs or other debris and burn them as well.

Can I cut wood from my backyard and take it camping if there are no quarantines or pest alerts in my area?

This is not a good idea. Pest infestations can take years to be recognized by the authorities- sometimes trees appear perfectly healthy despite harboring harmful organisms. By the time the tree looks sick, or the quarantine is announced, you could have spread the infestation to all your favorite campsites! Don't take this unnecessary chance. Buy the wood as close to where you burn it as possible.

Why are non-native insects and diseases so much worse than the native ones?

Native trees have defenses against the insects and diseases that they've been living with for millions of years. Likewise, native predators eat native insects and that keeps their numbers in check. Non-native insects and diseases have no predators in their new homes, and the trees have no natural defenses against them.

Because these foreign bugs don't have anything stopping them, they reproduce really fast and become out of control, killing trees in their wake.

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