Headed to one of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ lakes for the upcoming holiday weekend? David Hoover, a Conservation Biologist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Kansas City District is asking park visitors to leave their firewood at home.
“Firewood brought from home on a weekend camping trip may harbor the invasive and highly destructive emerald ash borer,” Hoover says. “Moving firewood associated with recreational camping is one of the main ways the emerald ash borer has expanded its range.”
This small, metallic green colored insect is not native to North America. Emerald ash borer only attack ash trees and have already killed millions of green ash trees in the eastern half of the United States. Hoover noted, “Green ash is one of the most common tree species on Corps’ project lands and provides shade in recreation areas and important habitat for native wildlife.” First documented in 2002 near Detroit, Mich., the emerald ash borer has greatly expanded its range and is now found in 25 states.
Corps’ Natural Resource Managers try and maintain healthy native plant and animal populations but non-native invasive species can interfere with that task.
“Adult beetles nibble on ash foliage but cause little damage. The larvae, insects at the immature stage, feed on the inner bark of ash trees disrupting the tree’s ability to transport nutrients, ultimately killing the tree,” explains Hoover. Both larvae and adults can unknowingly be transported on firewood. When brought to a new location on firewood they can establish a new population, especially if unburnt firewood is left. While their range expansion is generally a slow process, taking firewood to your favorite park or campground miles from home can quickly expand that range by establishing a new population outside the currently impacted area.
“At Corps lakes it’s important to check with the local project office for information on purchasing firewood and designated fire areas such as contained fireplaces, grills or other facilities specifically for this purpose. Remember not to leave a fire unattended and ensure the fire is completely extinguished prior to departure,” said Hoover.
Federal and state regulatory agencies have established quarantines and fines to prevent potentially infested ash trees, logs or hardwood firewood from moving out of areas where emerald ash borer occurs. “We’re working with the Kansas Forest Service, Kansas Department of Agriculture and Missouri Department of Conservation to educate the public about environmental damages associated with the emerald ash borer and the movement of firewood. For the health of our parks and forests, it is critical that we have the cooperation of the public in not moving firewood. Obtain your firewood at the park and burn your entire supply. For the same reason we don’t want visitors bringing firewood from home you shouldn’t take unused firewood from the park back to your home. With the help of our recreation visitors, we can slow the spread of the emerald ash borer.”
To learn more about the Corps’ efforts to combat invasive species online: http://www.usace.army.mil/Missions/Environmental/InvasiveSpeciesManagement.aspx