You’re planning a family trip to the coast, and you’ve been busy getting all the supplies to bring with you for a cozy weekend of watching the winter waves: food, cocoa and some firewood you found on sale at a local store. You’re ready to go!
Unfortunately, so are all the invasive, tree-killing pests lurking in that firewood.
Firewood is a major pathway for invasive species. You might not be able to see them when looking at firewood, but pests and fungi can hide inside logs and sticks. When they arrive at a new location, they can leave the wood and find new territory to infest.
Biologists believe firewood has been a vehicle for new infestations of invasive insects and diseases, including the emerald ash borer and the Mediterranean oak borer. These insects, which are not native to our region, have recently been found in local trees – and they have the potential to decimate the region’s Oregon ash and Oregon white oak populations.
History shows that infestations like this can wreak ecological havoc. Invasive pests and diseases have devastated native species of trees such as the American chestnut, eastern hemlock, and the American elm – species which have been part of American forests and streetscapes for centuries.
When you burn firewood that is sourced locally, it still may contain pests and diseases, but they probably already exist in that area so you’re not introducing new problems. When firewood is transported long distances, however, it can allow invasive species to travel much farther and faster than they ever could under their own power.
In general, when it comes to buying or harvesting firewood, the rule to follow is: The more local, the better. Try to burn wood within the same county it was harvested in – or, to use the Oregon Department of Forestry’s recommendation, within 10 miles of where it was harvested.
Drying or seasoning firewood does not reliably remove pests and diseases. Commercially kiln-dried firewood is safer to transport than other varieties, but the safest choice is to buy wood where you’re planning to use it.
This winter, whether you’re cozying up around the fireplace or roasting marshmallows at an outdoor bonfire, make sure you’re using local firewood.