Columbia, S.C. – Before you cozy up around your next crackling campfire this fall, make sure you’re using locally sourced firewood to protect the forest and trees around you.
October is Firewood Awareness Month, and the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism (SCPRT) and South Carolina Forestry Commission (SCFC) are partnering to remind South Carolinians and visitors to “buy it where you burn it.”
“Fall is a popular camping season, and as campers move across the state, firewood can easily become a vehicle for spreading non-native, invasive insects and diseases that threaten the health of our forests,” said Rachel Snuggs, an SCPRT forester. “When you burn firewood that’s sourced from more than 10 miles away, you increase the risk of transporting exotic pests and diseases that can harm the ecology of our local forest systems. These invasive, exotic pests and diseases traveling in our firewood are experts in disguise and have the power to destroy or have a significant negative impact on our forests and economy without being visible to the naked eye.”
The threats South Carolina trees and forests are facing from invasive pests are real and ongoing. The USDA has been working to remove thousands of trees in Charleston County that are infested with Asian longhorned beetles, which weaken and eventually kill trees. European gypsy moths – known for defoliating trees and leaving them vulnerable to diseases – have been captured in traps set at Huntington Beach State Park. Experts are monitoring and working to suppress these and other invasive insect species, but they can’t control the problem alone.
“Asian longhorned beetle and European gypsy moth are just two forest pests that are known to be transported on or in firewood,” said David Jenkins, Forest Health Coordinator at SCFC. “Emerald ash borer, oak wilt, hemlock woolly adelgid, and sudden oak death can all move on infested or infected firewood. All of these, and many more, could have a devastating impact on one of South Carolina’s greatest natural resources; our forests.”
We can all help protect our forests and mitigate the spread of invasive pests and diseases with one simple step – don’t move firewood. While it doesn’t completely eliminate the threat to our forests and trees, the easy decision to get firewood at your destination instead of packing it before you leave home can have a huge impact.
Every South Carolina State Park camper, or anyone planning a campfire across the state, can play their part by only using firewood that is:
- Locally sourced. Firewood sourced within 10 miles is best, and firewood from further than 50 miles is too far. South Carolina State Parks sell firewood bundles for campers, and park rangers can offer advice on the best local firewood sources near parks. It’s illegal to move firewood from certain parts of neighboring states.
- Certified heat-treated. Look for a USDA APHIS heat treatment seal. Kiln-dried lumber is not the same as heat treated and doesn’t meet the same stringent qualifications.
- Gathered on site, where permitted. If you aren’t building the campfire on your own property, check with the property owner before gathering fallen branches. Visitors are not permitted to harvest wood on state park property.
Learn more about the importance of using locally sourced firewood, and how you can be a good steward of our forests, at dontmovefirewood.org.
- Sam Queen, Director of Corporate Communications, South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism, 803-767-3568, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Doug Wood, Director of Communications, South Carolina Forestry Commission, 803-968-1576, email@example.com