Pest infestations in both urban and rural areas are estimated to cause economic damage exceeding $2.5 billion annually
ARLINGTON, Va., Nov. 7, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As fall turns into winter, people across the country buy or gather firewood to heat their homes, campsites, and cabins, and many aren't aware that moving firewood more than 50 miles can increase the risk of new invasive pest infestations that kill trees. A recent study, "Economic Impacts of Non-Native Forest Insects in the Continental United States" by Aukema et al. estimates that the costs of damages associated with these pest infestations in both urban and rural areas are nearly $1.7 billion in local government expenditures and approximately $830 million in lost residential property values totaling more than $2.5 billion annually.
According to this research, more than 450 non-native forest insects are established in the United States. Many of the insects featured in this report, including the emerald ash borer, red bay ambrosia beetle, and thousand cankers disease, are known to move frequently on infested firewood. Other pests that move on firewood have cost local and federal authorities tens of millions of dollars to control and eradicate in just the past five years.
"This new study tells us that when people move firewood, they could unwittingly cause millions of dollars of damage to their communities, including their own properties," said Leigh Greenwood, Don't Move Firewood campaign manager, The Nature Conservancy. "Fortunately, people can stop the spread of these destructive and costly pests, and save their community trees by buying locally harvested firewood and by communicating this message to their friends and neighbors."
Invasive insects and diseases can even lurk in dry and seasoned firewood, hidden in the layers of wood beneath the bark, which makes them difficult to detect. While these pests cannot move far on their own, when people move this firewood that harbors them, they unwittingly enable these pests to start an infestation far from their current range. Past invaders have devastated native species of trees such as the American chestnut, hemlock, and American elm – tree species that had been part of American forests and city streets for centuries until the invasion of foreign pests decimated them.
"Burning a wood fire in the winter has a lot of different uses – a primary heat source, a place for a family gathering, or part of a romantic evening," said Greenwood. "When firewood comes from a well managed local forest, it's a great alternative to using fossil fuels like oil and natural gas. Our campaign is focused on educating people how they can help protect local trees and communities by not risking the accidental movement of insects and diseases that can wipe out entire forests that when buying firewood for these purposes."
By buying locally harvested wood, individuals can help protect themselves and their communities from decreases in property values, the high expense of removing diseased or infested trees, and the loss of attractive landscapes. Another good reason to buy wood locally is that in many regions of the country, it is illegal to move firewood over county or state lines.
Following are tips from the Don't Move Firewood campaign:
- Obtain firewood near the location where you will burn it – that means the wood was cut in a nearby forest, in the same county, or a maximum of 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. It could still harbor tiny insect eggs or microscopic fungal spores that will start a new and deadly infestation of forest pests.
- Aged or seasoned wood is not considered safe to move, but commercially kiln-dried wood is a good option if you must transport firewood.
- If you have already moved firewood, and you need to dispose of it safely, burn it soon and completely. Make sure to rake the storage area carefully and also burn the debris. In the future, buy from a local source.
- Tell your friends and others about the risks of moving firewood – no one wants to be responsible for starting a new pest infestation.
For more information about "Economic Impacts of Non-Native Forest Insects in the Continental United States" please visit: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0024587
To learn more about how to prevent forest pests from destroying forests, log onto www.dontmovefirewood.org.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 18 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 117 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Visit us on the Web at www.nature.org.
SOURCE The Nature Conservancy