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Firewood can help transport invasive species, diseases

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As the weather cools down, some Michigan residents and visitors may be excited to get their fireplace going.

But state officials warn people to be mindful of where their firewood is from. Insects like the emerald ash borer or fungal diseases like oak wilt can hide in firewood for years, without you ever knowing.

Joanne Foreman is with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. She said people may be tempted to move firewood from their property to their cabin or campsite, but by doing so, they can unknowingly transport harmful visitors.

“If you've grown up in Michigan your whole life, you’re used to bringing your firewood to your cabin or campsite," Foreman said. "It’s more recently, we’ve begun to understand how firewood can act as a pathway.”

Foreman said even wood that's been dried or aged can still be a vector. That's why, she said, it's best to get local or USDA-certified firewood.

"Am I going to endanger something by bringing this firewood? And the answer is, you very well could," Foreman said. "Maybe it’s an extra $5-10 to buy it locally, but you could be saving the very place you love to visit.”

To learn more about invasive species, visit the DNR press release here.

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corps Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She covers rural environmental issues, focused on contamination, conservation, and climate change.