Don't Let the Emerald Ash Borer Hitch a Ride for the Holiday Weekend

Jul 02, 2012, 13:48 ET from USDA APHIS

Make it a pest-free July 4th, urges USDA; be aware of the risks of moving firewood

WASHINGTON, July 2, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Over 35 million Americans will travel by automobile for the July 4th holiday, according to AAA estimates. Since most will travel more than 50 miles from home, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) cautions travelers, "Don't pack a pest, leave firewood behind."

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"Firewood may look harmless, but it's a vehicle for the spread of forest pests and diseases," says Sharon Lucik of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). "For example, the emerald ash borer beetle lives underneath the bark of ash firewood, and when it's moved from one place to another -- say, from your home to your campsite -- you've just given the pest a free ride to a new location."

With the holiday falling midweek, the traveling public will likely parlay Independence Day into an extended vacation. Campgrounds will overflow with tents, travel trailers and RVs, and typically that means campfires. Before leaving the driveway, outdoor enthusiasts are encouraged to know the firewood rules of the road. There are federal and state regulations in place that prohibit the movement of firewood; plus, numerous state and local recreational areas ban outside firewood altogether.

USDA encourages the public to be stewards of their environment and be aware of the risks associated with moving firewood. Don't move firewood when you travel; however, if you must, only purchase certified treated and labeled firewood. Although treated firewood is safe to move, calling ahead to your destination is always advised.

"We need the public's help to stop the spread of the emerald ash borer and other invasive pests," says Lucik. "Changing our behavior is key. This July 4th holiday, buy firewood where you burn it, and remember to burn it all on-site."

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ABOUT USDA APHIS: With Agriculture Secretary Vilsack's leadership, APHIS works tirelessly to create and sustain opportunities for America's farmers, ranchers and producers. Each day, APHIS promotes U.S. agricultural health, regulates genetically engineered organisms, administers the Animal Welfare Act, and carries out wildlife damage management activities, all to safeguard the nation's agriculture, fishing and forestry industries. In the event that a pest or disease of concern is detected, APHIS implements emergency protocols and partners with affected states and other countries to quickly manage or eradicate the outbreak. To promote the health of U.S. agriculture in the international trade arena, APHIS develops and advances science-based standards with trading partners to ensure America's agricultural exports, valued at more than $137 billion annually, are protected from unjustified restrictions.