We know that human travel is a common way for invasive animals and pests to reach new areas of the globe. Hikers are now more conscious about brushing dirt from their shoes. Boaters clean their vessels to stop aquatic hitchhikers. Similarly, campers who travel a long distance with firewood can inadvertently introduce or spread pests to forests and urban trees, even in cold climates like Alaska.

Firewood could serve as a vector into the state for harmful pests including the emerald ash borer, the gypsy moth, and the Asian longhorned beetle. Southcentral Alaska has large outbreaks of the harmful spruce beetle, and experts recommend against traveling with firewood within the state to avoid spreading the beetle.

Even firewood that appears to be healthy can be infested with microscopic creatures. The best option is to source or buy firewood near where you plan to burn it. Some firewood for sale is marked with a USDA APHIS heat treatment seal, or a state based (such as a State Department of Agriculture) heat treatment seal, and is considered safe to move.

Close up of burning firewood
Photo courtesy Alexander Schimmeck on Unsplash.

How far is too far to travel with firewood?

A general rule of thumb is to burn firewood within 50 miles of the source, and keeping firewood within 10 miles is idea, according to The Nature Conservancy’s Forest Health Protection Program.

Most state parks and national parks within Alaska have their own firewood rules or restrictions. Be sure to check the local rules for your destination in order to stay in compliance and keep Alaska’s beautiful forests safe.

Best practices for firewood in Alaska

For drivers making a road trip on the Alaska Highway, one of the most important rules to remember is that transporting firewood from the U.S. into Canada, or from Canada into the U.S., is prohibited.

Forest agencies in Alaska encourage travelers to protect Alaska trees by remembering these guidelines:

  • Don’t bring firewood into or out of the state
  • Purchase or collect firewood near your destination
  • Leave unused firewood behind; do not transport it to a new location.
  • Report unusual or suspect insects immediately to the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service online, or by calling 1-877-520-5211.

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