Outdoors Blog

Avoid making this campfire mistake to protect Idaho’s forests

If you book Forest Service campgrounds online, you’ve probably seen the bold-face message: “Don’t Move Firewood.”

Here are some questions and answers about that 10-year-old campaign (dontmovefirewood.org) and what it means in Idaho:

Q: I buy packaged firewood at a store in Boise. Can I burn it in the mountains?

A: Yes, said Leigh Greenwood, who manages the Don’t Move Firewood campaign and is the forest health program director for The Nature Conservancy. Many commercial firewood packages sold in Idaho come from producers in East Idaho or the Salt Lake City area, she said. So whether you buy it here or where you camp, the wood likely is coming from the same place.

Q: So what shouldn’t I do?

A: Don’t bring firewood collected in one part of the state to another part of the state (the general rule is to burn within 50 miles of where the wood was found). And certainly don’t take it across state lines, Greenwood said, which can be illegal. The same applies to firewood you get while camping. Don’t bring it home.

The goal is to prevent the transfer of invasive species.

“If you’re buying commercial firewood, it’s going to be very low risk,” Greenwood said. “The much bigger problem and the behavior we really want to minimize is someone getting firewood from their own backyard and taking it to Stanley. Most invasive species invade urban and suburban environments first.”

Q: Where is the firewood issue of greatest concern?

“The issue right now is most acute in the Midwest and the Northeast, but that is not always the case,” Greenwood said. “... White pine blister rust was accidentally brought in (to Idaho and Montana) on contaminated pine seedlings in the late 1800s as the result of forest fire. The point is, it can happen anywhere. ... The closest location of one of the most damaging, economically, tree pests is in Colorado, emerald ash borer. It would not take long for somebody to drive from the greater Denver area to Boise. That’s the real threat.”

This billboard has been used in North Idaho. Courtesy of dontmovefirewood.org

Q: What about wood stoves?

A: The same guideline applies: Try to obtain the firewood as near as possible to where you’ll burn it.

Q: Is the message getting out?

A: “We do know that the message is spreading pretty well, but it’s a long-term campaign to change people’s behavior,” Greenwood said. “Just like we used to not think twice about littering before the ‘70s and not think twice about recycling before the ‘80s and ‘90s, it’s a long-term cultural change that we need to make.”