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Can You Take Firewood Across State Lines

Firewood is not something I ever thought of as dangerous.  Family camping trips always involved throwing a pile of wood in the truck and hitting the road.  Yet, in today’s more environmentally conscious world, the transportation of firewood poses known risks to local ecosystems.

Most of us probably have an intuitive grasp of that fact but I still get asked all the time if firewood can legally be transported across state lines.  Or even within a single state.

Transporting firewood across state lines is generally illegal.  Federal and state laws prohibit the movement of personally sourced wood to prevent the spread of invasive pests.  The only firewood safe to move is pre-packaged wood that has been heat treated to remove these pests.  Look for an USDA APHIS or State Department heat treatment seal indicating safe wood.  

You probably still have some questions just like I did.  After all, I think my firewood is pretty clean and free of pests.  But there is much more to it than that.  Keep reading and we’ll find out together.

Is transporting firewood illegal in all states

Invasive pests that destroy ecosystems are a big deal just about everywhere.  As a result, moving firewood is illegal in almost all states.  But it’s not just illegal to transport firewood across state lines.  Some states even prohibit the movement of firewood from one county to another.  

Even states that don’t outright ban firewood transport strongly encourage you to avoid traveling long distances or across state lines.  Plus, neighboring states are likely to have laws prohibiting firewood transport across their borders.  

In addition, national forests, state parks, national parks and even individual municipalities have their own rules regarding the movement of firewood.  In the unlikely event that these rules are less restrictive, state and federal laws need to be followed.

For anyone thinking of crossing the US-Canadian border with firewood, think again.  Regardless of which way you travel across the border, brining along firewood is always prohibited.  I wouldn’t even risk crossing the border with certified pest free wood.  Save the hassle of inspections and purchase firewood at your destination instead.

How far can you transport firewood

We have established that transporting firewood across state lines is illegal and that even moving wood from certain counties within a state is illegal.  But surely you can transport firewood some distance, right?

It makes sense that some movement of firewood has to happen.  After all, not everyone has their own forest by their home to supply a steady flow of wood for years and years.  At some point, you’ll end up needing a permit to cut firewood on state land or in a national forest that isn’t so close to home.

So how far can you transport wood?  Unfortunately, there is no exact answer.  

In general, state and federal authorities suggest that you limit firewood transport to less than 50 miles.  Moving firewood less than 10 miles is the suggested best practice.

However, you may live on the edge of a county line that restricts the transport of firewood from neighboring counties.  In that case, even moving wood a mile or two could prove problematic.  

In either case, always source your firewood as close to home as possible.  Sometimes you can’t help but get your wood a little further from home.  Just bear in mind that there are laws to follow.  Even if you won’t likely get in trouble, you can still cause irreparable harm to your local woods.  

Why transporting firewood is dangerous

It’s hard to imagine that a few stray bugs hitching a ride on a piece of firewood could really do much harm.  Yet, there are some truly devastating pests that wreak havoc on vast tracts of forested land.  Not only does it cause harm to entire ecosystems and trees, it also takes a toll on local economies that rely on forest resources.

Among the most damaging pests are emerald ash borers, spotted lantern flies, spongy moths and the asian longhorned beetle.  Combined, these insects have the ability to infest dozens of species of trees.

Unfortunately, damage from these pests is irreversible and completely exterminating invasive insects once they spread is impossible.  If that’s not bad enough, it only takes one piece of firewood to kick start a full blown infestation.  

Even if your firewood looks clean and doesn’t have any bugs, it’s not safe to move.  Boring insects are well hidden from sight and most bugs deposit tiny eggs invisible to the naked eye.  On top of that, there are other infestations caused by microscopic mold.  There is no way for you to confirm that your firewood is pest free so burn it where you cut it.

Can you bring your own firewood to campgrounds

Who doesn’t like a fire while out camping.  Spending an evening with family and friends by the warm glow of a fire makes for some cherished memories.  And let’s not forget the joys of making S’mores.  

Yet, that crackling fire seems a lot less cozy once you realize that you might be harming the very woods you love to camp in.  Bringing your own firewood to a campground seems innocent enough but as we already found out, transporting firewood even a short distance spreads harmful pests.

That’s why most campgrounds prohibit the use of personally sourced firewood.  At most campgrounds today, you are required to either purchase firewood at the campground or bring wood that has been certified as heat treated and free of invasive pests.  

Transporting your own firewood to a campground that prohibits it may result in fines.  If you are in doubt, error on the side of caution and only purchase certified firewood or pickup a few bundles of wood from the campground host.  

In addition, leave behind any unburnt wood.  It’s just as bad to transport firewood to your home that you purchased at the campground.  And certainly don’t take left over firewood to another campground if you’re continuing on a road trip.

Always remember to buy it where you burn it!

Where can I learn more about moving firewood

All the issues involving the transportation of firewood creates a complex problem which is challenging for average people like you and me to sort through the legal regulations.  Luckily, there are some good resources for finding out more information.  Ultimately, the responsibility lies with all of us.  Let’s do our part and follow best practices.

  • DontMoveFirewood.org is the best source of information on all things related to transporting firewood and invasive pest resources.  Explore the site but definitely check out their “Firewood Map” which lists transport regulations for all 50 states and Canadian Territories.  
  • FirewoodScout.org is an awesome resource for finding local firewood.  Whether you need firewood for home heating or want to find places to buy firewood around distant campgrounds, this is the website to use.  

For those of you heading out on a camping road trip, you’ll also want to check out the websites for campgrounds you plan to visit.  Each location may have their own rules regarding firewood and where to buy it.

Can you transport 2x4s as firewood

Most dimensional lumber like a 2×4 is kiln dried and fairly clean which makes it a much better choice for transporting than regular firewood.  However, many campground still prohibit campers from burning construction material like lumber.  There is a general concern for staff safety since some lumber may have nails or screws embedded in the wood.  

Keep in mind that even lumber stored outside for long periods of time can become infested with insects.  Bottom line?  Using clean lumber for camping trips is certainly a safer option but you still need to exercise caution and check park regulations before doing so.  

Where can you buy heat treated wood

By now you should realize it is far easier and better to source your firewood locally and avoid transporting it all together.  Yet, there are times when you want to have some firewood for your next camping trip.  Where do you get safe-to-transport wood? 

Remember, the safest wood to transport is certified heat treated wood.  There should be a state or federal heat treating seal of certification stamped on the packaging.  Anything without a certification seal is assumed to be unsafe for transport.

Many big box stores stock individually packaged firewood bundles that are heat treated and legal to transport across state lines.  Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes and many grocery stores carry heat treated firewood.

It’s important to note that kiln dried firewood is not the same thing as heat treated firewood.  Kiln dried wood is not always certified as pest free and is therefore not legal to transport beyond the local area.  Only certified heat treated firewood is pest free.  

Final thoughts

The dangers of firewood is real but there is a lot you can do to mitigate the risks.  Always remember that transporting firewood more than 50 miles poses a serious risk to natural resources.  It’s illegal in just about every state and could end up strapping you with some stiff fines.  So heed the following advice.

  • Only buy local firewood
  • Cut firewood close to home (less than 50 miles)
  • Buy only certified heat treated firewood for traveling
  • Practice “Buy It Where You Burn It” all the time