Utah bans out-of-state firewood, hoping to prevent spread of tree-killing bugs

(Michael Hill | AP Photo) The emerald ash borer is decimating ash trees in dozens of states.

Campfires are a sure sign of summer — but bringing firewood from outside Utah is prohibited under a new state quarantine, officials with the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food said in a reminder issued Wednesday.

A new rule — R68-23 — is designed to prevent the spread of invasive insects that stow away on kindling, logs and timber brought into state both commercially or privately, the department’s new commissioner, Kerry Gibson, said in a news release. “Utah’s firewood quarantine is critical to the health of our forests and agriculture industry in general.”

Invasive bugs — such as emerald ash borer (EAB), pine shoot beetle, Asian longhorned beetle and spotted lanternfly — have caused millions of dollars in damage to tree and agriculture products in other states, including New York, Michigan and Kentucky, the statement said.

Utah has no confirmed cases of EAB to date, but the state has had other invasive bugs in the past "and it takes a huge effort and expense to eradicate the creatures,” State Entomologist Kris Watson said in the release.

One provision of the Utah quarantine is that commercial firewood sold at stores must carry labeling that identifies where the wood originated. This is to ensure it doesn’t come from states with insect infestations or outbreaks that are on Utah’s watchlist.

The quarantine does not affect the typical fall firewood gathering in Utah. Those who like to salvage firewood from the mountains still can do that, with the exception of cutting in neighboring states and bringing the wood back to Utah.

Those interested can visit dontmovefirewood.org to get information about quarantine details in all 50 states.

Prevention is the best and most cost-effective way to manage invasive species, Gibson said, noting that prevention also means less reliance on insecticides, more productive fruit trees, and healthier urban and national forests.