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Firewood can carry invasive species

As winter continues, people across the country engage in a centuries-old tradition of gathering firewood to fuel home fires, but a new tri-state campaign hopes to educate Washingtonians’ about the dangers of collecting firewood from too far away.

Using firewood from more than 50 miles away increases the risk of introducing new bugs and diseases that may kill native trees. To prevent the spread of these pests, the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho are educating people about the dangers of moving firewood to Pacific Northwest forests.

The campaign, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, recommends buying firewood that is cut locally, preferably within the same county or region where it will be burned.

“Invasive insects such as emerald ash borer and the Asian longhorned beetle already have caused a lot of destruction to forests in Midwest and eastern states,” said Chris Christopher, chairman of the Washington Invasive Species Council. “By not moving firewood, we can prevent that damage from occurring in our state and the Pacific Northwest. Buying local wood not only financially supports local woodcutters — it also prevents the spread of harmful invasive species.”

Transporting firewood potentially can lead to infestations of invasive insects and diseases, which can lurk in firewood. These tree-killing pests can’t move far on their own, but when people move firewood that harbors them, they unwittingly enable these pests to start a new infestation. These types of invaders have devastated native species of trees such as the American chestnut, hemlock and the American elm — species that have been part of American forests and neighborhoods for centuries.

The following are tips to help protect Pacific Northwest forests:

• Obtain firewood near where you will burn it, no more than 50 miles from where you’ll have your fire.

• Don’t be tempted to get firewood from a remote location just because the wood looks clean and healthy.

• Commercially kiln-dried wood is a good option if you must transport firewood.

For more information, visit the Invasive Species Council’s Web site at www.invasivespecies.wa.gov.

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