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August 31, 2010

MADISON -- For many people, a campfire is an important part of the camping experience. But the firewood that fuels that campfire could also be transporting harmful insects and diseases to the forested areas in Wisconsin, including state parks and campgrounds. Backyard or neighborhood trees could also be at risk.

"It's not uncommon to see campers bringing their own firewood from home," said Jane Cummings-Carlson, forest health expert with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "We have park visitors from all over the state and from across the country. The fact is we have no idea where all that firewood is coming from, and some of that wood might just be the source of our next big problem."

Pests and diseases such as the emerald ash borer, gypsy moth, oak wilt and beech bark disease are easily spread through infested firewood. Data shows that these pests and diseases have already killed millions of trees and have the potential to kill many more.

If a disease or pest is detected in an area, the state can require tree nurseries, logging, mills, and other wood industries to stop the movement or take steps to control the threat. Because people can move firewood many directions from many sources, it is typically a major way for invasive hitch-hikers to reach new areas. State forestry officials use education and regulations as safeguards, but ultimately the health of the trees depends on people choosing to keep firewood local.

Campers can take some simple steps to help protect the state's healthy forests:

  1. Leave firewood at home.
    • Only purchase firewood that has been certified by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture (DATCP) and treated to kill lurking threats from invasive hitch hikers. Find a list of certified firewood dealers online at: [].
    • Or, buy firewood cut within 25 miles of your campsite and from within Wisconsin - it's the law on state properties unless the wood is WI DATCP certified. This new rule went into effect this year in an effort to further reduce the threat of damage by invasive species. Many properties offer firewood for sale, or private sellers have local wood available nearby.
  2. Burn all of your firewood at your campsite; do not take it with you to another destination.
  3. Reduce your need for open fires by cooking over gas or charcoal. Instead of an evening campfire, explore new night-time activities like star-gazing or viewing wildlife by flashlight.
  4. If your plans include staying at Federal, County, or private campgrounds, call ahead because regulations for acceptable firewood on these properties can vary.

"A campsite surrounded by healthy, mature trees is basic to a quality camping experience, and so is having a campfire," said forest health educator Colleen Robinson Klug. "If we are going to enjoy both, we need to take some precautions to prevent introducing invasive pests and diseases to the parks and forests we love the most. By using wood from trees grown nearby, you help prevent such introductions."

For more information see the Firewood Facts, Rules & Advice page of the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Colleen Robinson Klug, DNR Forest Health Educator at (608) 266-2172 or Andrea Diss-Torrance, DNR Forest Health Specialist, (608) 264-9247

Last Revised: Tuesday, August 31, 2010

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