How to avoid spreading invasive species through firewood

Published: October 29, 2018

stacks of firewood for winter outside Photo by Klimamarina/Shutterstock

It’s October and the acrid smell of chimney smoke fills the autumn air. It should come as no surprise then that October is officially firewood month — or more specifically, ‘Don’t Move Firewood’ month — as declared by The Nature Conservancy of Canada. But what does this mean, you ask? Will you still be able to fuel your wood oven and curl up next to a roaring fireplace? You will, as long as you’re conscientious of where your firewood comes from.

Firewood is a prime habitat for invasive species and, as cottagers stock up in preparation for winter, they run the risk of spreading these invasive species. “Tree killing insects and diseases can lurk in around firewood,” says Deborah Sparks, communications and business development manager of the Invasive Species Centre. “On their own, these insects and diseases don’t usually move very far, but when people move firewood, they can jump hundreds of miles.”

For this reason, it’s important to be wary of where and from whom you buy firewood. If you’re buying wood infected with an invasive species and bring it up to the cottage, you risk infecting the surrounding area. “[Invasive species] can cause new infestations that destroy forests, property values and cost huge sums of money to control,” Sparks says. The tricky part is, when buying firewood, there’s no discernible way to tell if the wood is infected. “Even the experts can’t always see a couple of pinhead-sized insect eggs or microscopic fungus spores in a pile of wood.”

In order to avoid spreading invasive species through the transportation of firewood, Sparks suggests buying local. “You want to buy it close to where you’re going to burn it,” she says. “A general rule of thumb is 20 kilometres or less is best.” Even when buying local, though, the firewood may have been shipped in from somewhere else, so, make sure you ask the seller where the wood came from. “Don’t assume it’s local,” Sparks says. And if the seller doesn’t know where the wood is from then it’s best to try somewhere else.

Sparks also stresses that the transportation of firewood works both ways. “If you’re buying it close to your cottage, don’t bring that unused firewood home afterwards.” If you’re unsure about how to properly transport firewood or the types of invasive species that threaten your area, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website offers rules, regulations, and quarantines that will provide you with the information you need.

“Forests and trees are really valuable to us,” Sparks says. So, let’s do our best to protect them.

 

 

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