Campground Surveys Focus on Firewood, Invasive Pests

In an effort to raise awareness about invasive forest pests, two University of Maine students will survey campers about their firewood use at Lamoine State Park and several private campgrounds on Mount Desert Island Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 22–24.

Laura Brehm, an ecology and environmental sciences student, and Sally Peckenham, a nursing student, have been surveying people at campgrounds in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont since June in an effort to learn more about firewood movement.

Out-of-state firewood has the potential to bring two wood-boring insects into Maine that could harm the state’s forests — the emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle.

The surveys are part of a larger study by researchers in the three states to evaluate the Forest Pest Outreach Project, funded by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry and designed to increase awareness of invasive forest pests.

The study aims to determine the most effective methods of outreach that will influence the behaviors of homeowners, landowners, campers and other stakeholders to protect forest resources from these insects.

“We want to try to prevent bad infestations of the emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle, and the best way to do that is by informing the public about what they can do to help,” Brehm says.

These insects have not yet been reported in Maine, but the emerald ash borer was recently found in New Hampshire, according to Jessica Leahy, associate professor in the School of Forest Resources and one of four principal investigators of the study.

The Asian longhorned beetle attacks maple trees and could negatively affect the state’s maple syrup industry, while the emerald ash borer targets ash trees, causing a particularly high mortality rate among the trees that have cultural significance for local Native American tribes, Leahy says.

To combat these invasive pests, an out-of-state firewood ban was passed by the Legislature in 2010, and the researchers want to evaluate the effectiveness of the ban.

Preliminary study results across the three states found 30 percent of campers bring wood from home into campgrounds. Experts suggest not to move firewood more than 30 miles, and Leahy says there’s a good chance most campers are more than 30 miles from home.

“We need to do more to get the message out not to bring camp wood, and we need to make it more accessible and affordable at campgrounds,” Leahy says.

Leahy said once the grant was approved in April, an advertisement for student researchers was issued.

“The first thing we did was have the students read up on these bugs,” Leahy says. “They had no idea how dramatic their impacts could be and the threats they create to the state’s forest. It makes the project all the more important.”

The students will visit about 20 campgrounds across the three states and survey more than 300 campers.

At the campgrounds, the students ask campers questions and write down answers as opposed to passing out a paper form. They also take notes on any signs about invasive forest pests and firewood movement, according to Brehm.

She says the research will aid the design of future outreach materials and they have already received a lot of advice from campers.

Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747