Emerald Ash Borer: Is it OK to move firewood yet?

University of Illinois Extension

MACOMB, Ill. — Many years ago, when the emerald ash borer had just arrived in northern Illinois, a colleague came across a flatbed trailer loaded with cut ash trees at a gas station. At that time, Illinois counties confirmed with EAB had a quarantine that restricted moving ash wood outside of the county.

Most Extension folks (me included) have a tough time claiming we are an expert on a particular topic, but I must admit, this Extension person at the gas station was an expert. They knew the rules on moving ash wood at the time. It seemed only fitting for this Extension educator to let the truck driver know what they were doing was prohibited.

The response of the person hauling the ash trees was, “You can’t tell me what to do.”

In reality, there were more choice words in that statement, so go ahead and use your imagination to fill in the blanks. It will be like a game of Mad Libs. But the truck driver was right. Illinois Extension is not here to tell you what to do. Our job at Illinois Extension is to use the most current research and unbiased information we have to help you make informed decisions.

What happens when the choices we make affect people we will never meet? Now that EAB is throughout Illinois, the county quarantines are no longer in force. But what was the cost? According to estimates published in Arboriculture and Urban Forestry, it is estimated the costs of EAB to community parks, private land, and along streets in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin are between $13.4 and $26 billion. That’s a fair chunk of change that most homeowners and municipalities don’t have in their budget.

I can certainly attest to the cost of EAB. We have several ash trees in our yard. This year alone, we spent
over $2,000 to have trees treated and removed as we slowly transition our canopy away from ash. We
can neither afford to treat them all nor to have them all removed and replaced. It is a strategy many
people and organizations have adopted to help cushion the financial blow.

Are we to blame the truck driver for hauling dead ash trees across the state over a decade ago? It is not
practical to blame one person. Truly, EAB would have made it to our yards eventually. Wait, if EAB was
going to get here anyway, why all the firewood fuss?

We can’t dismiss the responsibility to slow the spread of an invasive species. Because there’s more than
EAB, and like EAB these invasive pests will get here eventually causing harm to our urban, rural, and
natural areas. Our globalized economy has put our ecosystems in the blender and right now we’re trying
to hold the lid on to keep everything from becoming a huge expensive mess. And hopefully, save as
many species from extinction as possible.

Since the Illinois county quarantine has been dropped, is it now OK to move firewood? Hardwood
firewood is not regulated in Illinois and can move freely across the state. Even still, Illinois Extension
does not recommend moving firewood. Burn it where you buy it. Will it cost a couple of extra bucks? Of
course, but I’d rather pay $10 than $2,000.

Good Growing Tip of the Week: While the internal county quarantine has been lifted, currently, there is
still a federal USDA quarantine of several Midwestern states on ash wood products. For up-to-date
information on where ash quarantine boundaries are located, please contact Illinois Department of
Agriculture or your local USDA office.

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