Buy local has a whole new meaning when it comes to preventing the
spread of invasive species, pests and plant diseases as Oregonians
stock up on firewood this fall and winter.
With the arrival of colder weather, homeowners who heat with wood or
those who enjoy a crackling fireplace are in the market for firewood,
but the Oregon Department of Agriculture is urging consumers to avoid
purchasing firewood cut in other regions of the state or from
"We'd like for everyone to become aware that firewood is a pathway for
moving invasive species, and it's easy to fix that pathway. Just buy
local," said Dan Hilburn, administrator of the ODA's Plant Division and
a member of the Oregon Invasive Species Council. "There is plenty of it
around. Buy firewood that is produced locally and burn it locally."
While the spread of invasive species to Oregon from imported firewood
is a major concern, Oregonians should also be aware that pests like
ticks that pose human health threats can also be transported on
firewood transported from one side of the state to the other.
For consumers, the best advice is to ask the seller where the firewood came from. If the seller can't assure you the wood is local, buy it from someone who can, Hilburn said.
The supply of local firewood should be abundant this year, based on sales of commercial wood permits on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.
As of late July, the forest's sales of commercial firewood permits in 2008 exceeded last year's total, for the same period, by 98 cords - 269 cords compared with 171 last year.
Permit sales for personal use were also up, by 57 cords.
Barney Walton of Baker City sells firewood for $150 per cord split and delivered within Baker City or for $1 per mile extra outside Baker City.
While ticks, carpenter ants and black stink bugs can be a problem in some forested areas of Northeastern Oregon, Walton said he and other professional woodcutters strive to steer clear of infested areas.
"In the areas I've been cutting wood, I haven't seen any ticks and I haven't seen any on myself ," Walton said. "Some of the tamarack has a stink bug on it, but it is not harmful to humans."
Other than that, Walton said he occasionally runs into a tree infested with carpenter ants, but he said they're easy to spot and clean out when the wood is being split.
Walton can be reached at 541-401-8561.
Farel Baxter, a retired school teacher, returned to the labor of love of his youth when he took up firewood cutting as a hobby. His price per cord varies with the price of gas, but he currently charges $155 per cord split and delivered to senior citizens. For buyers he figures are young and healthy enough to split the wood themselves, Baxter charges an extra $10 a cord if he does the splitting.
"I'm 65 years old myself, so splitting wood is harder for me than it would be for some young buck," Baxter said.
His father was a district ranger in the old Union Ranger District when he was growing up, and he learned about pests invading area trees while working for the Forest Service himself for five years prior to embarking on his teaching career.
Baxter said he sometimes finds tussock moths in red fir and Douglas-fir, bark beetles in pines, and western casebearers in tamaracks.
Like Walton, Baxter said he eradicates the big black carpenter ants, which are most commonly found in overly-cured dead trees picked up off the ground.
"I carry some spray with me, and I spray the carpenter ants if I find any in a load of wood," said Baxter, who can be reached for firewood orders at 519-8640 or 519-8630.
Other local area firewood cutters can be reached at 518-7777 for a supplier of split lodgepole pine firewood for $150 per cord or $80 for a half cord delivered in Baker City, or for tamarack and red fir at $160 per cord call 519-7056. Seasoned tamarack and red fir is also available at 541-403-2502.
Whether it is used at a campground or at home, people selling and buying firewood often transport it great distances, possibly taking with them bugs or diseases, according to the ODA.
"Places that have invasive species problems like sudden oak death, emerald ash borer, or Asian longhorned beetle, have lots of dying trees," Hilburn said. "People are cutting those trees for firewood and moving it. The beetles and diseases are showing up hundreds of miles away."
Many trees that end up providing firewood are dying in the first place because they are afflicted with an invasive species. The might be dead, but the bugs and diseases inside go right on living, Hilburn said.
Even firewood that is split into small pieces may contain the insect or disease. If firewood is stored for any great length of time, the threat of bugs or diseases spreading increases, Hilburn said.
To avoid bringing pest problems into your neighborhood or home, be sure to inspect firewood to make sure it is free of unwanted bugs.
"At the very least, if you purchase firewood from a far away source, burn it right away," said Hilburn. "Still, it is better to buy the local stuff. It's better for the environment, it is in abundance, and it is often cheaper."
The concern over firewood is stronger this year, largely because of a potential for the emerald ash borer to spread. That bug has caused extensive damage and has killed millions of ash trees in Michigan and parts of Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, and Ontario, Canada.
"Normally, the emerald ash borer only flies a few miles on its own," said Hilburn. "But in the Midwest, they have seen a 300- to 400-mile jump believed to be caused by transported firewood. If it's going to move that quickly across the country, Oregon could be at risk in the near future," Hilburn said.
Closer to Oregon, trees in California have succumbed to sudden oak death. Even though California has regulations prohibiting the transportation of firewood from quarantined areas, it's impossible to guarantee firewood will not cross the Oregon border.
Another way to prevent the spread of plant diseases and pests is to kiln dry firewood the same way companies do for imported timber. The high heat destroys insects and pathogens.