Beginning this month, Tennessee State Parks will advise visitors to use certified heat-treated wood. The new policy aims to prevent or slow the introduction of exotic insects or diseases into parks that could otherwise threaten the health of our trees and forests.
“Transportation of firewood is a primary pathway for the introduction of harmful pests and pathogens to Tennessee’s forests and woodlands,” said Jere Jeter, Tennessee State Forester with the Department of Agriculture. “We are pleased that State Parks has taken this important step to reduce the risks of new infestations and assist us with the protection of Tennessee’s trees.”
Forests cover more than 14 million acres, or 52 percent, of Tennessee. Insects can hide or lay eggs in firewood and spread widely if introduced into a park. Heat-treated firewood eliminates this danger by killing pests during the drying process and is safe for a campfire. It lights easily, burns well and is safe to cook over.
Insects and diseases hitchhiking undetected on firewood include the emerald ash borer, thousand cankers disease, hemlock woolly adelgid, gypsy moth and Asian longhorned beetle, among others. All have already killed tens of millions of trees in North America. The pests feed on trees like ash, black walnut, hemlock, oak and maple, disrupting the trees’ ability to transport water and nutrients. Infested trees soon die, which means impaired habitat for wildlife, a greater risk for wildfires, reduced timber values, and the loss of some of our state’s most beautiful places.
Tennessee State Parks’ policy is similar to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park policy put into place in March 2015. All Tennessee State Parks that feature overnight accommodations will have information on-site about safe firewood. Visitors should contact specific parks to see if firewood is available to purchase on-site. If firewood is not available at a park, visitors should purchase certified heat-treated firewood before they arrive. Firewoodscout.org is an online directory for firewood vendors, including those who provide certified heart-treated firewood, and is searchable by zip code. Campers are also welcome to collect and burn dead and down wood found in a park.
Visit www.protecttnforests.org to learn more about the insects and wood and see a statewide map of where to find heat-treated wood.