Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Smokies Institutes New Firewood Restrictions

Great Smoky Mountains National Park has announced that its current policy to prohibit the transportation of firewood from federal and state quarantined areas into the park has been tightened to include several neighboring counties in Tennessee. The affected areas, Blount, Knox, Anderson, Loudon and Union, and the most recent county just added to the list, Grainger, have been quarantined by either the state or federal government to prevent the movement of the destructive emerald ash borer (EAB) and thousand cankers disease (TCD), an associated fungal disease transmitted by a small twig beetle.

The current firewood quarantines cover ALL AREAS in the following states: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, and PORTIONS of the following states: Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin, and for the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

These state and federal regulations allow the movement of firewood within a quarantined county and between one quarantined county and another. In an effort to protect the world-renowned biodiversity of the Smokies, Park regulations go a step further and prohibit visitors from bringing wood from any infested county into any part of the Park, unless the wood was purchased and bears a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) pest-free certification seal. This restriction includes bringing wood from Blount County into the park, including those areas such as Cades Cove, Look Rock, and Abrams Creek which lie within Blount County. Movement of infested firewood has been implicated in the spread of destructive insects and diseases into urban and natural areas which has caused significant mortality among numerous tree species.

“Visitors who come to enjoy camping in the national park should be extremely cautious with the source of wood that they use for their campfires to help protect the Park’s great biodiversity of plants and animals,” said Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson.

Campers have four options for burning firewood in the Park: First, firewood can be purchased from local businesses that sell firewood bundles bearing USDA seals certifying that the wood may be transported safely. A second option is to purchase firewood from a Park concessioner at any of the three largest campgrounds in the Park—Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont. A third option is to use cut timber that is kiln-dried, finished and from which the bark was removed during the milling process. Though the National Park Service discourages the movement of firewood from one location to another, a fourth option includes bringing wood into the Park from a non-quarantined area. Visitors can reduce the risk of transporting destructive insects by using only dry, non-rotten wood with the bark removed.

This significant forest health problem stems from raw wood that is taken from trees that are stressed, diseased, or insect-ridden for firewood use, which frequently will contain wood pests that may have contributed to its demise. The presence of bark on wood increases the ability for wood pests to thrive. Yard trees are often used as firewood and could harbor these fatal organisms.

Biological invasions of nonnative organisms are the park’s number one resource threat to its forests and associated ecosystems. In addition to the most recent invasive species that have made their way to just beyond Park boundaries, there are several other known pests that are hitching a ride in firewood and moving around the states. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Risk Assessment there are eight organisms that have prompted federal and state quarantines that include the EAB, Asian longhorned beetle, gypsy moth, pine shoot beetle, sudden oak death, sirex wood wasp, hemlock woolly adelgid, and the European larch canker. These have already killed millions of trees in areas that they have infiltrated.

The EAB and TCD are originally from Asia but have been accidentally introduced to North America. They were first discovered in Tennessee in 2010. Neither EAB or TCD has been found yet in the Park. The tree species at risk if these were to enter the Park are ash (EAB), black walnut and butternut trees (TCD). The Park has been working closely with federal and state plant protection agencies to educate the public about risks associated with the transportation of firewood. Numerous stakeholders representing federal, state, private forestry, and academia are joining together to develop a national strategy to mitigate the risks associated with movement of firewood, including a highly charged public education campaign.

For additional information, please visit the Firewood Quarantine page.


No comments: