Certified firewood and clean gear protects forests from invasive species

June 7, 2021

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources encourages Minnesotans to get outdoors for the many benefits outdoor recreation brings. However, increased outdoor recreation can also lead to a heightened risk for the movement of invasive species.

During PlayCleanGo Awareness Week, June 5-12, and throughout the year, the DNR urges campers, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts to protect forests, wetlands and prairies from invasive species by cleaning their gear after each outing and buying certified firewood.

“Most invasive species can’t travel very far on their own. But they can move across the state in a few hours when they hitch a ride with people,” said Sascha Lodge, DNR terrestrial invasive species program coordinator.

The third annual PlayCleanGo Awareness Week is a nationwide effort to show outdoor enthusiasts how they can stop invasive plants and pests from spreading.

Lodge said invasive plants like common tansy, garlic mustard and spotted knapweed might appear harmless, but they disrupt forests and other native landscapes and can have damaging effects on native trees, plants and wildlife.

“By staying on trails and cleaning their boots and gear before exploring a new natural space, recreationists can avoid contributing to unwanted spread,” Lodge said.

Firewood also can be an accomplice in the unwanted movement of invasive species. People moving firewood from one location to another are a major cause of spreading invasive pests and diseases such as emerald ash borer, gypsy moth, Dutch elm disease and oak wilt.

“These pests threaten Minnesota’s forests,” Lodge said, “Buy certified firewood close to where you’ll burn it. If you need to travel with firewood, then certified firewood is your best bet.” Both local firewood – with proof of location purchase – and Minnesota Department of Agriculture-certified firewood can be used in state parks and forests. Look for the certified “safe-to-move” logo at gas stations and other retail locations across the state.

Check out the qualifications for local and certified firewood at mndnr.gov/firewood.

For more information on terrestrial invasive species, mndnr.gov/invasive-plants.