New firewood law's goal: Protect Oregon's forests

Rules set to take effect Jan. 1

POSTED: 7:01 PM PST November 28, 2012    UPDATED: 7:08 PM PST November 28, 2012 
BEND, Ore. -

The Oregon Department of Agriculture finalized the rules for a new state law this week.

Its aim: to protect Oregon forests from pests and diseases.

If you are cutting or burning firewood in Oregon, Idaho or Washington, there are no changes for you.

But those importing firewood into Oregon from outside the Pacific Northwest, are going to have jump through some new hoops.

The Deschutes National Forest has been busy passing out firewood cutting permits these past two months.

"It's a pretty significant amount of firewood going into the community off the Deschutes National Forest," forest spokeswoman Jean Nelson-Dean said Wednesday.

That includes 1,700 cords of firewood from just one of their offices.

"A lot of homes in the area rely on that firewood component as a part of their heat source," Nelson-Dean said. "It's an important product that we supply the community with."

While many Central Oregonians use the forest to get their firewood, others bring some from other states.

"People go to areas, they camp, they get wood off that forest, and they probably unintentionally bring wood into Oregon," Nelson-Dean said.

A lot of people may not be aware that imported firewood could carry non-native pests and diseases.

"Ten years ago, no one thought about it at all," said Dan Hilburn, director of plant programs with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. "With the advent of Sudden Oak Death, Emerald ash borer, Asian longhorned beetle and pests like that, which are killing trees, it has become crystal clear in the last few years that we need to do this."

The 2010 Oregon Legislature passed a bill giving the Department of Agriculture authority to regulate imported firewood.

"We haven't had a big outbreak for any particular pest," Hilburn said. "We got a lot of trees to protect, so I think the timing is right for this to take effect now."

The agency says they are urging people to be aware of the new rules.

"We just need everybody to understand that buying firewood from where you are going to burn it makes the most sense," Hilburn said. "And if you do buy it from a longer distance away, you need to make sure that its pest free and heat treated."

The firewood cutting season on the Deschutes and Ochoco national forests ends this Friday.

A handful of other states have enacted similar firewood laws. Neighboring Washington and Idaho will be watching closely how Oregon's law works.