(CBS DETROIT) – Wherever your travels may take you this summer, you can make more room for your favorite recreational gear, your pet or even an extra friend by choosing to leave firewood at home, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources says.

Moving firewood when you camp, hunt or head out for a weekend getaway means you risk carrying tree-killing insects and diseases inside the firewood. Bugs can crawl out, infesting trees and carrying diseases that can forever change the landscape of the places you love.

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“Much like the emerald ash borer – which spread across the state in the early 2000s, killing many of Michigan’s 700 million ash trees – invasive oak wilt, beech bark disease and hemlock woolly adelgid are threatening tree species that are critical components of our forests and landscapes,” said Robin Rosenbaum, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Plant Health Section manager.

According to MDARD, there are 140 pests and diseases that can be moved with firewood. Some are already present in Michigan, while others, including Asian longhorned beetle, beech leaf disease and spotted lanternfly, are infesting nearby states.

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“On their own, these insects and diseases can’t travel very far, but they can travel hundreds of miles on firewood,” said Sue Tangora, Michigan Department of Natural Resources Forest Health and Cooperative Programs Section supervisor. “Trees cut for firewood often died due to insects or disease. Why risk carrying oak wilt to your cabin or beech bark disease to your favorite camping spot?”

Keep the fire burning

You can still have a roaring campfire, or a cozy night in front of the fireplace, if you just know how to burn safe.

  • Wood that looks clean and healthy can still have tiny insect eggs or microscopic fungi spores that can start a new and deadly infestation. Always leave your backyard firewood at home, even if you think it looks fine.
  • Buy firewood near where you will burn it – a good rule of thumb is only using wood that was cut within 50 miles of where you’ll have your fire.
  • Use FirewoodScout.org to find a firewood vendor near your destination. With over 350 Michigan listings, you can comparison shop before you arrive.
  • Certified, heat-treated firewood is safe to move long distances. Look for a federal stamp or seal on the package, and keep the firewood in the original packaging if entering a campground that requires heat-treated wood.
    Aged or seasoned wood is still not safe. Just because it is dry doesn’t mean it’s clean. A recent study showed insects continued to emerge from firewood even three years after it had been cut.
    If you buy firewood and don’t burn it all, don’t bring it home or to your next destination.
    Tell your friends not to bring wood with them – everyone needs to know they should not move firewood.

Know before you go

Firewood policies vary greatly among the national parks, national forests, private campgrounds and other lands in Michigan. Call ahead or visit DontMoveFirewood.org for more information.

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