Firewood campaign encourages Burn It Where You Buy It"
Visitors to Kansas' popular outdoor venues will see something new starting this week--signs that read "Burn it Where Your Buy It."
The signs, about the size used to advertise a house for sale, are part of a multi-state campaign to educate summer travelers about the dangers of moving damaging insects from one place to another on firewood.
The Kansas Department of Agriculture joined the campaign to try to prevent the emerald ash borer from being brought into Kansas. The small, shiny, emerald green beetle has been spreading outward from the Great Lakes region since it was first discovered in 2002 in the Detroit, Michigan area. Since then, it has been detected in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Wisconsin and Missouri, where it has killed millions of ash trees and caused thousands more to be removed to slow its spread. In mid-May, it was found in Minnesota.
Larvae from the beetle burrow in tunnels under an ash tree's bark, which interferes with the tree's ability to take up water and nutrients. Eventually the tree dies. While it isn't a threat to other kinds of trees, it can be devastating in areas with large ash tree populations. The beetle can move short distances on its own, but plant health officials believe its spread has been helped by human activities like moving firewood.
"We're always on the lookout for new, damaging pests, and the emerald ash borer has been on our radar for a number of years," said Laurinda Ramonda, state survey coordinator for the department's plant protection and weed control program. "Because it's not native to the United States, it has no natural predators and researchers haven't yet found an effective way to control it using other methods like pesticides."
The best Kansas can do at this point is to raise awareness about the pest and convince residents and visitors alike to not move firewood too far from where it's cut or purchased.
The campaign was given a boost when Governor Mark Parkinson signed a proclamation declaring May 17 to 23 Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week.
He noted that ash trees are on 680,000 acres, or 32 percent, of the state's rural forestland, and they make up a significant percentage of the state's urban tree population. He added that increasing public awareness and understanding of the emerald ash borer benefits Kansas by reducing the likelihood of its artificial spread through firewood movement.
"Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week is an opportunity for government to encourage schools, business, industry, environmental groups, community organizations, tourists and residents to take action against the spread and introduction of emerald ash borer into Kansas," his proclamation read.
As an added measure, the state is participating in a national survey to detect emerald ash borer. The Kansas Department of Agriculture is partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to hang traps in ash trees throughout the eastern half of the state. The purple traps use a special bait to lure the borer, and they are extremely sticky on the outside so the beetle can't get away once it lands.
"Kansas participated in the survey last year, and no beetles were found, so we're hopeful for a similar outcome again this year," Ramonda said. "However, we've already developed a plan of action should the beetle arrive in Kansas."
The Kansas Emerald Ash Borer Response Plan spells out in detail a host of actions state and federal agencies, professional associations and private industry will take to contain it.
The department has been working with the Kansas Forest Service to spread the word about emerald ash borer, and that agency has been instrumental getting the "Burn It Where You Buy It" signs posted throughout the state.
"Together, we're hoping to sound the alarm loud enough that people will listen and stop moving firewood from one location to another. That's our best strategy for preventing emerald ash borer in Kansas," Ramonda said.