It's no secret that firewood is sold for profit. You can find it outside grocery stores and gas stations nearly anywhere you go in the northern states.
But where is it coming from? Splitting local firewood with your own log splitter helps to cut down the spread of invasive insects and diseases that can be detrimental to forest health.
Lately there's been more awareness of these risks, but it's important that you leave the wood at home and find it where you'll burn it.
The Problem With Invasive Insects
Some insects that are fine in one forest may be detrimental to another forest. Emerald ash borers are commonly thought of when referring to invasive insects, but there are many kinds that can destroy a forest.
Longhorned beetles, aphids, wooly adelgids, moths, spotted lanternfly, and a variety of other kinds can destroy a forest. They're not detrimental in their native habitat, but when transported over great distances, they can pose incredible threats to other ecosystems.
Trees have natural defenses to native insects. One example is predators that feed on those insects. Non-native insects may not be fed upon by those local predators, so they reproduce more rapidly and get out of control.
The Problem With Invasive Pathogens
There are also diseases, fungi, and other types of pathogens that can wreak havoc on foreign ecosystems.
You may have heard of Dutch Elm Disease. It's caused by a fungus called Ophiostoma Ulmi, which was introduced to America by the import of unpeeled raw veneer logs out of Europe. The disease spreads from tree to tree via root grafts, and causes American Elm trees to produce tyloses and gums that block the vascular system of the tree.
There are several other kinds of pathogens, such as beech bark disease, sudden oak death, thousand canker disease, and white pine blister rust. They all sound scary, and if you were a tree, you'd probably be shaking in your roots. However, they can all be avoided by keeping firewood local to its native habitat.
How Careful Must You Really Be?
Even if you carefully inspect your firewood, you're not likely to notice pin-head-sized larvae. You'd also likely miss any microscopic fungus spores. And although they're too small to notice, they're still dangerous enough to destroy an ecosystem.
You may think it's okay because you plan to burn it all. However, while your intentions are good, the larvae or spores could easily fall from the firewood during transportation. All it takes is a gust of wind or the brush of your hand to break a small piece of contaminated bark off, and you've contaminated an entire forest.
The more careful you are, the better. It's best to avoid transporting any firewood over any distance greater than 10 miles. So when you travel and need something to burn, buy or cut your wood within a 10-mile radius from where you plan to burn it.