Transporting firewood spreads insects and diseases that weaken forests. As a consequence, a number of states have restricted the transportation of firewood based on the distance from where it grew to where it is burned. These actions slow the spread of disease. Trees develop resistance to native insects and diseases, helping them ward off the side effects of infestations. The trees have no defenses against foreign invaders, and the damage can be serious before forest managers are even aware of the presence of disease.
As of April 2011, the states that border the Pacific Ocean have firewood transportation restrictions in place, as well as a large contiguous block of north central and northeastern states. Minnesota forms the northwestern border of the block, dropping to Missouri and extending east to the Atlantic, going north to the Canadian border. States without adopted restrictions that encourage burning only local firewood include North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Oklahoma.
Campers, tourists or residents can buy local firewood from certified firewood providers or from local producers when no certification is necessary. New York State requires campers to have a receipt indicating where they bought the firewood. If the land surrounding a campground or resort is public, tourists might be able to forage for kindling or dead wood from the forest floor, although cutting wood on public lands nearly always requires a permit issued by the state.
The restrictions on firewood transportation confine disease outbreaks to specific areas of a forest and do not spread infections or insects over a larger area. Fighting diseases in forests can be an expensive undertaking, and the loss of trees leads to loss of habitat inside a forest ecosystem for other plants and animals. The value of privately held land also decreases because of the loss of trees from disease.
States employ fines for campers or residents who transport their own firewood or buy from an unauthorized dealer. The state of Ohio implemented a stiff law in 2006 to reduce the spread of the emerald ash borer by placing a quarantine in counties affected by the pest. The state allowed fines as high as $4,000. The state of New York passed a law in 2009 that prescribes a $250 fine, a $100 civil penalty and the possibility of 15 days in jail for transporting firewood more than 50 miles from its source.
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