Transporting Firewood Harms Campground Forests
Campfires have always been a major staple in campgrounds -- sitting around the fire on a starlit night, telling ghost stories and fish tales, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows for s'mores and even percolating morning coffee in a battered aluminum pot.
Campers traditionally loaded up a supply of firewood with their tents and coolers for a weekend of camping.
"It isn't uncommon for people to fill the bed of their pickup truck with firewood for a summer outing," said Colleen Steinman, promotions coordinator for the DNR Parks and Recreation Dvision, "especially if they are going to camp all weekend."
But the practice of hauling firewood from one part of the state to another is devastating Michigan's native trees. Transporting firewood also transports insects and diseases. Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive insect that has impacted nearly 10 million trees throughout southeast Michigan, is perhaps the most prominent threat to Michigan's forests, but it is not alone. Beech bark disease, Dutch elm disease and gypsy moths are the top threats in a growing list of firewood hitchhikers.
In Ludington State Park, beech trees infected with American beech bark disease had to be cut down (see photo right). Foresters believe the disease was introduced through infected firewood.
Michigan has established Emerald Ash Borer quarantine areas which make transporting firewood from trees that lose their leaves from these areas illegal. Throughout Michigan, campers are encouraged to consider some simple precautions that will help ensure the future of their favorite recreation destinations. Our advice:
- Don't bring firewood with you when you camp. If you find or buy wood in the park, don't take any back home with you. Burn it all or give it to other campers in the park.
- In most parks, concessionaires sell firewood in small, manageable bundles. When a concessionaire isn't available, many private firewood sales can be found in the areas near the park. Keep your purchases within a short distance.
- Use a cook stove or charcoal to cook meals instead of cooking over a wood fire.
- Instead of sitting around the fire at night, try a new activity. A night-time hike, star-gazing or wildlife viewing are evening activities that limit the need for firewood.
- Pair up with your fellow campers at a communal fire circle to share the warmth of a crackling wood fire and make some new friends.
Protecting Michigan's forests doesn't mean that campfires are a thing of the past. Taking extra steps to enjoy the firelight will protect Michigan's forests today and for future generations. Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions about the use of firewood in campgrounds:
1. I don't live in a quarantined area, can I take firewood with me a state campground?
We discourage moving firewood because other forest pests can be moved in it. If you are not moving firewood from a Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) Emerald Ash Borer quarantine area and you live in the Lower Peninsula, you legally may move firewood anywhere in the Lower Peninsula. It is illegal to move any hardwood firewood out of the Lower Peninsula no matter where it originated. Hardwood firewood being brought over the Mackinac Bridge will be confiscated. Even though moving firewood in the Lower Peninsula may not be illegal, we encourage all campers to buy local sources of firewood when they camp on DNR lands.
2. I live in a quarantined area, can I take firewood as long as it's not ash with me?
You cannot move any deciduous (trees that lose their leaves in the fall) firewood from a quarantined area.
3. I don't want to buy firewood at the campground where I am staying, why can't I move firewood?
4. Are you saying I can only take pine to burn at a state park?
You cannot bring ash firewood onto or into a state park anywhere in Michigan. You also cannot take any deciduous firewood from a MDA quarantined area.
5. Does this rule apply if I am going to a state forest campground?
Yes. You cannot bring ash firewood onto any DNR managed lands including state parks, forest campgrounds, recreation areas, access sites and forests.