Birch firewood (Photo by NCC)

Birch firewood (Photo by NCC)

Help protect our forests from invasive pests

Firewood: don't transport it

Firewood disposal site (Photo by NCC)

Firewood disposal site (Photo by NCC)

When you're heating your cottage or home, or sitting around a campfire, have you considered where the firewood came from and if it’s hiding any unwanted invasive forest pests?

We are lucky that forests make up nearly 50 per cent of Manitoba and 66 per cent of Ontario! These forests benefit all of us environmentally, economically and culturally. Maintaining forest health by preventing the spread of invasive pests is our best (as well as least expensive) line of defence. Learning more about firewood and why we shouldn’t transport it is one easy step we can all take to help protect our forests.

Transporting firewood from one natural area to another poses a great risk to the health of our trees and forests. It may seem like a harmless act, but it can lead to the spread of invasive forest pests — insects, plants and diseases — into new areas where they are not native and have the potential to cause harm. Forest pests can’t move far on their own, but when hiding in firewood they can hitch a free ride and travel long distances.

Although firewood can look clean and healthy, it can have tiny insects, eggs or microscopic fungi spores that can spread and start a new infestation. Aged or seasoned firewood is still not safe because pests can still crawl onto it prior to transport. Just because you can’t see signs of a pest infestation doesn’t mean the pests aren’t there.

Invasive forest pests that threaten Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario include emerald ash borer, Asian long-horned beetle, mountain pine beetle and gypsy moth. Emerald ash borer (EAB) and Asian long-horned beetle (ALB) are of great concern. Both, EAB and ALB have been recently introduced to Canada, with EAB confirmed in Winnipeg for the first time just a few months ago. Without natural controls in their new environment, these pest have the potential to rapidly spread, resulting in major ecological and economic damage, costing millions to manage and replace tree loss.

EAB is an invasive wood-boring beetle native to parts of Asia, which attacks and eventually destroys healthy ash trees. It was detected in the Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario, in 2002, but likely existed undetected in North American since the 1990s. It is believed to have been introduced in a shipment of untreated wooden packing material or shipping crates from Asia. EAB is rapidly spreading across North America and has killed millions of ash trees in the United States and Ontario and Quebec.

ALB is an invasive species native to China and other parts of Asia. It was first detected at several North American ports in the early 1990s. Infestations were later discovered in the Toronto, Ontario, area in 2003 and Mississauga, Ontario, in 2013. ALB is very destructive, attacking many hardwood tree species, including birch, maple poplar and willow. Without containment, ALB has the potential to cause widespread damage, resulting in significant losses to the hardwood forestry industry as well as ecological value impacting tourism and recreation.

Regulations for moving firewood vary between Canadian jurisdictions. It is, however, illegal to import firewood from the United States into Canada. The province of Manitoba has installed voluntary firewood drop-off bins at entry points, including one near the Ontario border on the TransCanada highway for proper disposal and containment. To prevent the artificial spread of EAB and ALB, there are federal regulatory measures in place by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) that prohibit the movement of ash and other hardwood materials, including firewood, from regulated areas of Ontario, Quebec and the United States.

To find out more about these regulated areas and ongoing monitoring for these pests visit the CFIA website.  

The best practice is to source and buy or harvest local wood that is near to where you burn it. If you buy wood, ask the supplier where they harvested the wood. The CFIA and initiative suggest that you buy firewood that was harvested less than 80 kilometres (50 miles) away from where it is being sold. Remember, when you are buying a bag of firewood at the local gas station, it’s not just where you bought the firewood but where the firewood was harvested.

We are all in this together. What can we do?
•    Use local wood to heat your home, cottage and camp
•    Buy firewood locally and leave what you don’t use
•    Don’t move firewood from other provinces or to the United States
•    Spread the word about the threat of invasive forest pests
•    Be aware of the firewood tree species that you are buying or harvesting
•    Familiarize yourself with invasive forest pests of concern
•    Report suspected sightings to in Manitoba and call the Invading Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711 or visit in Ontario

This winter you can cozy up in front of a fireplace knowing that you are doing your part in protecting our forests by getting your firewood where you’ll burn it.

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