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Camping in the Cascades this summer? Leave the firewood at home

(Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

When you head out on your summer camping trip, remember your sleeping bag and cooler, but leave your firewood at home.

While Governor Inslee has issued a limited burn ban, it does not apply to state, county, or municipal campgrounds that have not enacted their own burn bans, or small firepits on private property. But even if small recreational fires are allowed at the campground or residence you are staying at, make sure you do not trek your firewood across the mountains.

The Washington State Invasive Species Council is warning people that carrying wood across the state or country can inadvertently transport invasive insects and plant diseases to areas where they can cause damage.

“Firewood can have pests like insects, or it may have diseases inside of it,” said Justin Bush, executive coordinator of the Invasive Species Council. “Even if you don’t see it, there could be larvae inside the firewood itself.”

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It is always safest to assume there is something in the wood. That is the idea behind the council’s “Buy it Where you Burn it” campaign.

“Instead of bringing firewood with you, buy it where you burn it,” Bush said. “Or, where possible, gather the firewood on site, where permitted.”

Buying the wood where it is burned means staying within the same county.

“If your firewood was cut within 50 miles of where you’re going, that’s what we’re recommending,” Bush said.

So instead of taking your logs from a Seattle-area grocery store to your campsite in the Cascades or on the Olympic Peninsula, you should wait until you get to the nearest town to your campground or vacation rental to buy wood.

Bush explained that the consequences can end up hurting that other kind of wood — the green paper in your pocketbook.

For example, the emerald ash borer, which is making its way across the United States through firewood, can destroy trees; that burden would end up being borne by taxpayers.

“Ultimately, we would all be paying for the tree removal and replanting if those costs were passed on through rate increases,” Bush said. “And so really, we’ve all got a huge stake in trying to prevent these tree-killing insects.”

To help keep the state apprised of any invasive insects or other invasive species in the wild, download the free Washington Invasives app before you go hiking or camping. The app will let you log the creature you thought you saw and the spot where you saw it.

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