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New rules restrict movement of firewood to state campgrounds

To try to combat the spread of harmful insects into state forests the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is telling campers that they can only use wood from Wisconsin for campfires.

As the weather warms and outdoor enthusiasts get ready for camping and campfires, state park and forestry officials are reminding campers that transporting firewood can also transport dangerous pests.

Rules also prohibit brining firewood from more than 50 miles away into all DNR managed properties including state parks and forests.

"Many invasive, destructive pests and diseases can travel on firewood," says Andrea Diss-Torrance, DNR forest health specialist. "Unsuspecting campers can unintentionally introduce these pests to the places and trees they love."

The rule means that people who camp this year on state-managed land will need to buy firewood at the campground or from a nearby Wisconsin firewood dealer located less than 50 miles from the campground and within Wisconsin.

All other firewood will be confiscated upon entry to the park and destroyed.

The best way to find out about firewood availability at near a park or forest is to contact the park or forest office directly. A list of state park and forest contact numbers is posted on the DNR's State Parks Web site (

"Campers can expect a few questions and lots of useful information on how to help protect their trees from invasive pests when they arrive at their state camping destinations this year," says Bruce Chevis of the DNR parks and recreation bureau. "Everyone can help protect our state's natural resources by making a few small changes in how we prepare for campfires."

The most damaging pest currently threatening Wisconsin trees is the emerald ash borer (EAB).

This tiny green bug is responsible for the death of more than 25 million ash trees in Michigan and surrounding states since 2002. Originally from Asia, this bug likely hitched a ride across the ocean in wooden shipping crates in the 1990s.

It was first recognized in 2002 when it started killing ash trees in towns in the Detroit area. Many neighborhoods that were once covered with full-grown ash trees are now stripped bare as the EAB has killed all ash trees in its path. Within three years of becoming infested, a mature and otherwise healthy ash tree will die.

Since its first appearance in the United States, the emerald ash borer has made its way into at least seven states and may be present and undetected in even more.

Firewood is now the primary way this pest is being moved to new areas. People take the pest with them to campgrounds or summer homes or from vacation areas to home on firewood.

"Research shows this bug typically does not fly more than three miles per year -- at the most -- on its own. That means we have a unique responsibility to make sure we do not help it out by moving it long distances on firewood," says Diss-Torrance.

In Wisconsin, ash trees make up an average of 20 percent of street trees, or about 717 million trees.