As we flock to foliage, remember burning tainted wood could destroy the view

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It doesn't take long for a pest like the emerald ash borer to destroy a forest. (Maine Dept. of Agriculture Conservation and Forestry graphic)

Columbus Day weekend is a great time to go camping or sit around a campfire and tell ghost stories to get in the Halloween spirit.

But there are a whole bunch of bugs and fungus that threaten our forests, and everyone from recreational campers to commercial loggers have to be involved in protecting this natural resource, according to a recent statement from the Maine Forest Service sent this week in recognition of October as Firewood Awareness Month.

Maine and New Hampshire both have a ban on untreated, out-of-state firewood and guidelines for how far we should move firewood within the states.

Our two states' trees are coming under assault from threats like invasive forest insects and diseases. They are also vulnerable to new introductions of these pests, which are easily spread when firewood is moved.

Many think that firewood is dead. In truth, firewood harbors live insects and pathogens for many years after the tree has been cut into firewood, according to state forestry officials. These insects and diseases can spread to living trees, causing them to die.

Clear and present dangers

Firewood movement contributed to the rapid spread of the emerald ash borer, a devastating invasive insect that has killed billions of ash trees in North America. Many other invasive pests can also hide on or in firewood. Here are a few examples of what you could carry with you when you move firewood:

Oak wilt fungus that threatens our oak trees;

The colorful planthopper and expert hitchhiker, the spotted lanternfly that threatens not only trees but also important crops and certain adult beverages (e.g., wine);

And the devastating Asian longhorned beetle that can kill many of our hardwood trees, including the sugar maple,

And the rash-causing, tree-defoliator, browntail moth.

These invasive pests are just a few of many forest health threats that move with firewood, according to forestry officials. Tiny insect eggs or microscopic fungi may be lurking on or under the bark, waiting to be carried to a new location. Even seemingly pest-free firewood can harbor hidden hitchhikers.

Anyone with questions regarding moving firewood can check out the Don't Move Firewood FAQs by clicking here.

Source material from the Maine Dept. of Agriculture Conservation and Forestry was used in this report.

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