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Michigan proposes a ban on out-of-state firewood

The Asian longhorned beetle feeds on deciduous broadleaf trees like maple, birch and willow.
kellymarken/Getty Images/iStockphoto
The Asian longhorned beetle feeds on deciduous broadleaf trees like maple, birch and willow.

Michigan’s environmental agencies have long discouraged the transport of firewood from outside the state, but a policy proposed last week would make the practice officially illegal.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD)

is proposing an exterior firewood quarantine for the state. If the policy is enacted, violators could face fines between $1,000 and $10,000 for bringing firewood across state lines and into Michigan.

Mike Bryan is a quarantine compliance specialist for MDARD, and drafted the proposal released last Thursday. He says public feedback so far has been supportive.

“I’ve received 15 public comments, and all have been positive,” Bryan said. “People say, ‘Go for it, we want to protect our resources in Michigan.’”

Bryan says the positive response is likely due to lessons learned firsthand in Michigan.

“We’ve seen some of the devastating effects of invaders that were moved around on firewood,” Bryan said, citing Dutch elm disease which arrived in Michigan in the 1960s and wiped out almost all of the state’s native elm trees in a matter of decades.

MDARD cites concerns about more than 140 forest pests and pathogens spread by transporting firewood as the reason for proposing its exterior firewood quarantine. One insect of great concern is the Asian longhorn beetle, which has taken hold in parts of Ohio.

Experts on the Asian longhorned beetle say its continued spread could have severe consequences.

“This would be the most devastating non-native, invasive tree killer that’s ever been introduced to the United States if it were allowed to go the same route as the emerald ash borer,” said Joe Boggs, an entomologist at Ohio State University.

The emerald ash borer is a wood-boring insect that’s killed tens of millions of ash trees since 2002, when it was first spotted in the state. It has spread around the county, in part through the transport of firewood.

While the emerald ash borer targets specifically ash trees, the Asian longhorned beetle will feed on a variety of broadleaf deciduous trees, like maple, birch and willow.

The public comment period on MDARD’s proposed exterior firewood quarantine is open until November 19.

Patrick Shea was a natural resources reporter at Interlochen Public Radio. Before joining IPR, he worked a variety of jobs in conservation, forestry, prescribed fire and trail work. He earned a degree in natural resources from Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, and his interest in reporting grew as he studied environmental journalism at the University of Montana's graduate school.