DEC to enforce ban on transporting firewood

RAY BROOK - Although enforcement could prove tricky, the state Department of Environmental Conservation announced Thursday it will be cracking down on Adirondack campers who transport firewood over 50 miles from its point of origin.

Adopted in 2008, the regulation barring long-distance transport of firewood is meant to stem the spread of invasive insects that are capable of destroying an entire forest - particularly the emerald ash borer and the Asian long-horned beetle.

DEC Assistant Director of Operations Tom Folts told Adirondack Park Agency commissioners last week that Environmental Conservation officers will be surveying visitors at state campgrounds in the Adirondack and Catskill mountains, looking for wood that could carry the destructive species.

"When people come in to register at a campground, they are not permitted to enter the grounds with that firewood unless they live within 50 miles of the campground," Folts said.

Roughly one million campers burn 577,000 bundles of wood annually in Adirondack campgrounds alone. Out of that, DEC estimates about 177,000 bundles are brought in by tourists traveling over 50 miles from their homes.

First offenses can prompt a $250 fine.

Since the ban's adoption, DEC has primarily focused on educating the public of the dangers of invasive species transport instead of enforcing the emergency regulation.

Folts said because of the new limitations, DEC must make up for nearly 200,000 bundles of firewood.

DEC has been awarded $123,000 in seed money from the state to get into the wood-retailing business.

"Money has just been made available to increase sources of firewood at some locations," he said. "And that money is being spent on seed money for the DEC to buy firewood. Hopefully we'll take the revenues from that and convince our people in Albany to buy more firewood."

This summer alone, DEC plans on constructing wood-vending huts in seven Adirondack campgrounds they haven't yet identified. The rest of the money will be used to purchase firewood from approved sources.

The department is also expanding its wood peddler permitting process to allow even more local residents to sell firewood in and around state-run campgrounds.

Officials said wood that has been heated and certified as treated is exempt from the regulation. Stewart's Shops and Price Chopper are already carrying the safe-transport firewood. It can be distinguished by a state DEC stamp on the package.

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