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If you’re planning on doing some camping, a beachside bonfire, or even traveling to a backyard fire pit, bringing some wood you already have lying around might seem like a great idea. Finding a source of wood close to your event might be tricky, after all, and you might want to be extra prepared. But you shouldn’t travel more than a few miles with firewood: You could inadvertently spread tree-eating pests.

Firewood isn’t as dead as it looks

Firewood might seem like it’s totally lifeless by the time it’s been cut and cured, but it’s actually a lively ecosystem that can host a variety of relatively harmless species as well as wood boring beetles, insect eggs and larvae, and mold spores. Although you can’t see them, these tiny hitchhikers can cause big trouble for trees in the surrounding area. Bugs and mold can both infest trees, in some cases killing them, so you don’t want to give them a free ride.

Don’t move firewood long distances

Using firewood that comes from within 10 miles of your intended destination will help ensure that your wood isn’t carrying invasive species into the area you’re planning to use it. Checking in with your camp ground or local branch of the National Parks Service for acceptable places to find firewood is a good way to find some that’s locally sourced. Don’t forget that the same rule applies on your return trip: If you’ve traveled more than 10 miles from home, don’t bring any firewood home with you.

Get certified heat-treated wood

If you buy wood that’s certified by USDA APHIS (US Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) as having been heat-treated and inspected, you can be relatively sure you’re not bringing along any pests with your wood. Wood that has a USDA APHIS certification is usually packaged and shows a seal to show it’s been inspected. If you’re not sure, you can ask the seller for clarification. If you plan to travel with wood, certified heat=treated wood is the safest option.

Invasive species that can accompany your firewood

The biggest threats to forests in the US from invasive species are the Emerald Ash Borer Beetle, the Asian Longhorned Beetle, and the Spongy Moth. In addition to insects, mold spores that can cause beech leaf disease, Dutch Elm disease, and oak wilt can all be spread on or in firewood. There are dozens of other, lesser-known species of pests that can be spread through carrying eggs or live borer beetles within untreated wood. To help curb the spread of these non-native and hazardous insects, follow the 10-mile radius rule.

Know before you go

In some states, stricter quarantines limiting the traveling distance for firewood are in place, as well as other restrictions that can help stop the spread of plant diseases and invasive species. Before you travel, it’s a good idea to check with your local state government concerning firewood rules. Be sure to note where you are and are not allowed to gather your own wood as well as any other restrictions. You can also check the Don’t Move Firewood website for local updates and news about how to help control the spread of invasive species.

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