AUGUSTA — A case of “poster envy” has led to an expansion of the Maine Bug Watch’s efforts to warn more Maine residents and visitors about the dangers of importing out-of-state firewood, now illegal in Maine.
A new poster aimed at Maine’s hunting community reminds outdoor recreationists not to bring firewood into the state. Bringing in illegal, out-of-state firewood can import dangerous, invasive insect species, such as the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) and the emerald ash borer (EAB), which can destroy Maine forests, according to state officials.
“Just like campers, hunters and fishermen traditionally have brought in firewood, and just like with campers, it’s got to stop,” said State Entomologist Dave Struble, with the Maine Forest Service, under the Maine Department of Conservation.
“Hunters and fishermen are a group we haven’t yet specifically targeted, and we believe they share our concerns about the welfare of the forests,” said State Horticulturist Ann Gibbs, with the Maine Department of Agriculture. “Lots of people in the state are concerned with the issue of invasive insects, and we hope this will resonate with hunting camp owners.”
The new, eye-catching poster, “Guns, Bugs, Ammo, Camo, Three Out of Four Ain’t Bad,” reminds hunters: “Firewood can lug bugs! Buy it where you burn it — don’t give bugs a free ride!”
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife already has used the poster in its weekly report.
“The poster will be used as one tool to educate hunters not to bring wood in from out of state,” according to Edie Smith, DIF&W director of information and education. “All outdoor recreationists need to heed the warning of DOC and AG, and certainly as stewards and users of the land, we all know that invasive bugs must not enter our state.”
The Maine Bug Watch is a collaboration of the Maine Department of Agriculture and MDOC designed to educate the public about the threat of invasive insect species. Two insects in particular — ALB and EAB — are a serious threat to Maine’s hardwood forests, Struble noted.
The two insects, not yet found in Maine, have destroyed millions of trees in other states. ALB, which damages a broad range of hardwoods, has infested a 98-square-mile area around Worcester, Mass. where maples appear to be the preferred host, and recently was discovered in Boston. EAB, which has killed more than 60 million ash trees since it was first found around Detroit in 2002, has been detected in 16 states from Minnesota to eastern New York, and as far south as Tennessee.
A third invasive insect, the brown spruce longhorned beetle, now is threatening Maine softwood forests, Struble said. The insect was first seen in Nova Scotia, Canada, and recently was picked up in a trap in New Brunswick.
“We are gravely concerned about these insects,” the state entomologist said. “They are severe threats to our forests, and firewood has been implicated to spread in each of them.”
Struble said he saw the poster put out by the Iowa Department of Agriculture, and “I was very taken by it — it caught my eye and struck a chord.” He spoke with his Iowa counterparts and got permission to use it for the Maine Bug Watch effort. Working with Greg Miller, MFS GIS coordinator and webmaster, they re-designed the poster for Maine use.
The state entomologist said he thinks the hunting community especially understands the importance of forests as habitat and the value of protecting them, “particularly when looking at Maine and the traditional use of private land with consideration.”
“The vast majority of people who come to hunt and fish and recreate understand the importance of respecting landowners’ rights and property — they understand the use and protection of a private resource,” Struble said.
Safe, reasonably priced firewood is available in Maine, as is treated firewood, the state officials point out.
The Maine Forest Service, charged by the Maine Legislature with implementing and enforcing the firewood ban, is developing new, strict regulations regarding firewood importation. So far, the agency’s efforts have primarily focused on education and outreach, with firewood exchanges held on the Maine Turnpike on big holiday-travel weekends.
MFS is transitioning, however, to enforcement activities, including fines, Struble warned, adding, “it won’t be just confiscation of firewood.”
“Our hope is to capture the attention of this important audience and to enlist them in the effort of protecting our forests,” the state entomologist said about reaching out to the hunting community. “We hope there will be peer pressure, too.”