Importing Firewood Is Sparking a Change

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firewoodVERMONT - When it comes to protecting the environment, Vermont is known for being a leader amongst the United States. The state will be taking another step towards environmental safety in May involving the importation of firewood.

 Barbara Shultz of the Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation explains a new rule will create a quarantine of any out of state firewood that is not treated properly by a certified facility.

 

“Firewood that is not treated will not be allowed in the state,” explains Shultz. “That is, unless the person importing it has a waiver. Non-native pests, and pests we don’t know about yet, could be in untreated firewood. This rule will help in prevention of the spread of these pests. The most successful way to avoid any problem is to keep the problem from starting. The easiest way to manage these pests is to keep them from coming in. They move fast enough on their own, and we don’t want to be helping.”

 

Beginning on May 1st, firewood will not be allowed into the state without first being quarantined, and treated with heat. According to USDA standards, the firewood must be exposed to temperatures of 160° F for at least 75 minutes. This burns away any pests or other organisms living in the wood. Once firewood is treated at a certified facility, it is safe to cross the state line.

 

“Generally treatment facilities are large, and process and treat thousands of cords of wood,” says Agency of Natural Resources representative Paul Frederick. “A lot of our suppliers in Vermont use a facility in New York. We’re really encouraging people to buy their wood locally, where they are going to use it.”

 

If untreated wood is imported across state borders, it could bring in harmful new species to our biomes, such as the Asian Longhorned beetle and the Emerald Ash Borer. Those insects are just two of the many species the Agency of Natural Resources is trying to keep out of Vermont.

 

“The idea is that it will slow the spread of pathogens or invasive insects,” Frederick states. “It will give us a little more time to work on research on controlling those insects, like the emerald ash borer. The more time we have to save those trees that could potentially be killed, the more time we have to develop a control for the insect and deal with it.”

 

Frederick says the hardest group to regulate could be out-of-state-campers, who could be unaware of the rule. However, the campers may obtain a waiver from the Commissioner for untreated wood. The waiver should be granted, as long as the Agency of Natural Resources believes the wood poses “minimal threat to forest health.”

 

Shultz believes in the end, this new rule will financially benefit Vermont.

 

“In the short term, there may be a few individuals that source their firewood out of state and need to look elsewhere for their firewood. Although, there are lots of people who sell and source wood in Vermont, so that will help them out. In the long term, dead trees are a financial impact to everybody, and this will keep trees healthy. So in the long run, the financial impact is positive.”

 

This new law has been filed with the Secretary of State’s office and is open for public comment. The public is urged to express their view on the matter, and the rule could be changed accordingly to help accommodate valid concerns. The deadline for public comment is January 15th.

 

Public hearings on the new regulation will be held at the Manchester Town Hall on Tuesday January 6th from 4-6pm, and at the Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital on Thursday January 7th from 4-6pm.