Don't take firewood to coast

If you are planning a winter camping trip to the Oregon Coast this winter for some whale watching, don't take any firewood from the Rogue Valley.

Instead, buy it locally when you get to the coast.

The problem, explained Sam Chan, the chairman of the Oregon Invasive Species Council, is that moving firewood long distances — generally considered 50 miles or more — increases the risk of introducing new invasive species into an area that could kill native trees.

"You don't want to take firewood into different climate zones," he said. "We normally think of firewood as dead because it often comes from thinning dead trees from a forest, but these trees can have insects and diseases in them that can be dormant in the wood."

The Oregon council is working with the U.S. Forest Service as well as the states of Idaho and Washington and The Nature Conservancy to educate the public about the threat of spreading invasive species by moving firewood long distances.

Although the focus in the "Don't Move Firewood" campaign is on hauling the wood longer distances, even bringing it into a different climate zone can spread invasive species, he said.

"We're finding that about 40 percent of campers carry their own firewood into a campground," he said, adding, "And Oregon is the prime destination for out-of-state campers."

While the campaign also is concerned about transporting firewood long distances for domestic use, Chan noted most residents in southwest Oregon would purchase wood from local sources.

"The problem in your area is more with campers," said Chan, an Oregon State University professor working on watershed health and aquatic invasive species at the university. He previously was a research plant physiologist with the Forest Service, studying the management and restoration of forests in riparian areas and wetlands.

Paul Galloway, spokesman for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, said local officials also are concerned about the spread of invasive species via firewood.

"We are suggesting to folks that they utilize local wood when they are camping," he said, noting that wood has been the vehicle through which many invasive species have been introduced into new areas.

He noted that the Forest Service, OSU and the state already are working to contain the sudden oak death pathogen, which has struck oak and related trees in Curry County.

Studies conducted by OSU and The Nature Conservancy indicated that most people buying firewood are willing to make changes once they understand the threat.

"People have the power to save their trees," said Leigh Greenwood, Don't Move Firewood campaign manager for the conservancy, in a prepared statement. "They can help stop the spread of destructive pests by not moving firewood and communicating this message to others."

"We are hoping people become more aware of the problem," Chan said. "There are some very serious pests out there that we don't want in our very valuable forests."

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Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or e-mail

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