MONTPELIER >> A new rule is being considered that would ban the transport of untreated firewood into the state of Vermont, in order to prevent the spread of invasive pests such as the Asian longhorned beetle and the emerald ash borer.
Barbara Schultz, forest health program manager with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation, said that the rule has been filed with the secretary of state, and is open for public comment until Jan. 15. There will be two public forums to discuss the issue, the first at the Manchester Town Hall on Tuesday Jan. 5, and the second on Thursday Jan. 7 at the Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital in St. Johnsbury. Both hearings will begin at 4 p.m.
Schultz said that the neighboring states of New York, New Hampshire, Maine, and Connecticut all have similar laws on the books already. While Massachusetts does not, because both pests have been discovered in the state, restrictions on bringing firewood out of that state are already in effect. While infestations have been found in all neighboring states, Schultz said Vermont appears to be free of both the Asian longhorned beetle and the emerald ash borer. "We do a lot of surveying," she said, "And, at the moment, it appears we're going to make it another year without any sightings."
Specifically, the new rule would prohibit the importation of any wood processed for burning and less than 48 inches in length, not including wood chips, pellets, pulpwood, or wood for manufacturing purposes. Firewood that has been treated up to the U.S. Department of Agriculture standard of 160 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 75 minutes at a certified treatment facility, and is accompanied by certification of treatment, is exempt from this rule. Schultz said the rule, which will go into effect May 1, pending the results of the public hearings, will be enforced by the Agency of Natural Resources. Violations of the rule may result in confiscation and/or civil citations under Title 10 of the Vermont state statute, which allows for fines of up to $3,000. Waivers will be available from the commissioner of the Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation.
Title 10's subchapter on the importation of firewood, requires the Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation to adopt rules regulating the importation of untreated firewood into the state as of this year. Similar rules are already in effect for bringing firewood onto state and federal land.
The rule includes a summary of economic impact, which reads, "While there may be an impact on neighboring states' firewood dealers, the economic impact on Vermont's forest industry is expected to be limited. It may affect some firewood processors, retailers, and other users of firewood who have located a source of inexpensive firewood from outside Vermont, and import that firewood in short lengths. Campground owners may benefit from an increase in the amount of firewood they are able to sell on-site."