A number of states have laws that, to varying degrees, restrict importation and transportation of firewood aimed at stopping spread of invasive species, often insects or other pests. Firewood has been shown to be an agent for transporting invasive species. Many of the states with firewood laws are in the East and Midwest, part of Emerald ash borer federally quarantined areas.
California has an existing quarantine of a fungus pathogen that causes sudden oak death, prohibiting firewood transportation out of infected areas, but the law is specific to that pathogen and condition.
Oregon and New York have recently adopted broad firewood laws and have committed resources aimed at protecting their forests from damage from invasive species.
The New York law originated within its Department of Environmental Conservation rather than Department of Agriculture. This regulation (192.5) prohibits: “importation and purchase of untreated firewood from outside the state. Treated firewood is defined as heated to a minimum core temperature of 71 degrees centigrade for a minimum of 75 minutes employing kiln-drying or other treatments to effectively kill embedded species; purchase or possession of untreated firewood without a certification of source; purchase or possession of untreated firewood grown in New York State more than 50 miles from the source; retail sale of untreated firewood without state certified labeling documenting firewood health; and retail sale of untreated firewood without records identifying the name and address of person(s) from whom the firewood was obtained and the date of purchase. Records must be retained for two years and available for law enforcement inspection.”
Treated firewood must be labeled “New York-Approved Treated Firewood/Pest Free”; and, where there is reason to believe that untreated firewood is moving within the state, “Any law enforcement officer may order that such untreated firewood by returned to its source, or confiscated or destroyed, at the expense of the violator.”
The Oregon law, an emergency declaration enacted in 2011 that takes effect on Jan. 1, 2013, is similar to New York’s. It requires anyone who sells or transports firewood within the state to have records showing source, treatment and disposition (place of sale). Oregon officials may inspect inventory and facilities of any firewood sellers or shippers. The law prohibits importation of wood from outside Oregon, Washington or Idaho unless the importer can provide documentation that the firewood has been treated and is “pest free” as defined in the ordinance. Civil fines of up to $10,000 are authorized.
Other states with specific firewood laws aimed at stopping invasive species are: Florida, Missouri, Maine, Nebraska, New Hampshire, and North Carolina,
To impose a federal quarantine requires that the invasive pest be foreign in origin, as are the Emerald ash borer and the Asian long-horned beetle, both native to Asia. Since the Goldspotted oak borer is considered native to the U.S., a federal quarantine cannot be established.
On Jan. 22, 2009, the USDA APHIS Plant Protection Quarantine New Pest Advisory Group concluded that GSOB was native to Arizona, and long-established in California. They recently affirmed their adoption of a “non-reportable/non-actionable policy” for detections of GSOB in California.
At a March 2011 multi-agency meeting convened to address Goldspotted oak borer, San Bernardino County Agricultural Commissioner John Gardner stated the generally accepted conditions for quarantine laid down by USDA. If a pest, in this case Goldspotted oak borer, is neither a danger to agriculture nor foreign in origin, it is not a quarantine candidate.
Even without federal quarantine, states, such as the eight mentioned, can enact quarantines and firewood transportation laws when there are perceived threats from identified invasive species to the state’s economy and well-being of its citizens. Often, those quarantines and laws originate with a state’s agricultural department or bureau, pushed along by a threatened lobby or interest group. The problem with stricter regulation of firewood is that existing state forests, according to an entomologist with San Diego County’s Agricultural Weights and Measures office who spoke on background, are not viewed as agricultural crops, are seen as having no market value, and do not have strong lobbies or interest groups to agitate for protective action.
According to the Center for Invasive Species Research, every 60 days California gains a new and potentially damaging invasive species that threatens agriculture. “If detection does not come early enough, eradication is virtually impossible,” said Dr. Tracy Ellis, entomologist and agricultural scientist. “Management is the only option and that requires resources.”
So even if firewood laws aimed at protecting forests from invasive species were enacted, the resources may not be there for enforcement, given the competition for resources from the growing number of pests that threaten states’ agricultural industries.