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Don’t move firewood when camping, DEC warns

The emerald ash borer is one of several tree-killing insects that spread with the aid of people moving firewood from one area to another. Its larvae have been killing ash trees in large numbers in other parts of New York and other states, and this summer it was found for the first time in the Adirondacks, near Lake George. (Provided photo — Benjamin Smith, via Wikimedia Commons)

ALBANY — October is National Firewood Awareness Month, and the state Department of Environmental Conservation is reminding campers to prevent the spread of invasive species by following firewood requirements when obtaining wood for campfires.

Many people take wood from their properties as they head out to camp, but most don’t realize their wood may be hiding the eggs, larvae, spores, adults or even seeds of invasive threats. Transporting infested firewood allows invasive animals and plants to spread farther and faster than they could or would have on their own.

Invasives that can be transported on firewood include Asian longhorned beetle, emerald ash borer, Asian gypsy moth, light brown apple moth and brown spruce longhorned beetle.

“One of the easiest ways to prevent the spread of invasive forest pests is to obtain firewood within 50 miles of your destination,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a press release. “Whether you are setting out for a camping adventure or preparing to heat your house this winter, it is important to use firewood grown nearby to protect the places you love.”

In 2009, New York enacted a regulation to prevent this accidental and often long-distance spread by limiting the transportation of firewood. The regulation pertains to all species of wood, cut or not cut, split or not split, destined for use as fuel. Logs are subject to the regulation if their intended use is as firewood.

These regulations limit untreated firewood’s travel into and around the state. Firewood is treated by heating it to 160 degrees Fahrenheit for 75 minutes.

Any law enforcement officer can enforce this regulation, and violations may result in a ticket that carries a $250 fine in addition to other penalties. Untreated firewood moved more than 50 miles may be ordered to be returned to its place of origin or confiscated and destroyed.

Failing to follow the regulation could also lead to greater impacts well beyond a ticket fee: the death of trees in favorite campgrounds and neighborhoods; the loss of trees and forest habitats critical to many species of wildlife including rare, threatened and endangered species; untold ecological impacts from the loss of entire species (akin to the loss of American chestnut or American elm); millions of dollars to remove infested or dead trees from campgrounds, yards, parks, playgrounds, and community streets; and millions of dollars in liability exposure for public and private property owners from dead and dying trees.

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