ASSATEAGUE – Visitors pouring into the Assateague Island State Park for the holiday weekend will likely have to discard any firewood they brought with them as state officials this week took drastic measures to prevent the spread of an invasive species devastating woodlands across Maryland.
Both the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Forest Service and Park Service this week took active measures in the state’s effort to stop the spread of the emerald ash borer by introducing a new policy designed to prevent campers and other visitors from bringing outside firewood onto all DNR-owned or managed properties including Assateague Island State Park.
The department will be notifying campers of the restriction when reservations are made and by notices posted at the properties. Both Park and Forest Service staffs will direct visitors to local sources of firewood and require campers to immediately burn any local firewood transported to a DNR property.
“The emerald ash borer is a non-native, invasive wood boring insect that has the potential to devastate the ash tree population and radically alter the forest composition of Maryland,” said Maryland State Forester Steve Koehn. “It has been found in parts of Maryland and nearby states and is spread most rapidly though movement of infested wood products, most noticeably firewood.”
The beetle was introduced to southern Prince George’s County in 2003 after a Michigan nurseryman illegally shipped infested ash trees in violation of a quarantine in that state. This winter, more than 25,000 ash trees were removed from neighborhoods and forests in a 21-square-mile area near Clinton and Brandywine. A three-year surveillance program is already underway to determine if eradication efforts have been successful.
Visitors to Maryland state lands will be asked if they have brought firewood from home. If they have, both Park and Forest Service staffs will require campers to immediately burn any firewood being transported to a DNR property and direct visitors to local sources of firewood.
“The personnel of the Maryland Park Service are ready to assist campers in their compliance with this policy and to assist them in finding alternative sources of firewood,” said MPS Acting Superintendent Rusty Ruszin. “It is important that we work together to preserve the camping experience available on these treasured public lands, while protecting our natural resources.”