Moving Firewood, Tipi Poles, and Other Wood Products to Standing Rock

© L. Greenwood, The Nature Conservancy

© L. Greenwood, The Nature Conservancy

Guest Commentary

Published October 18, 2016

Trees and forests all over North America are threatened by invasive tree-killing insects and diseases. These pests don’t normally move very far on their own, but they can move hundreds of miles in or on ordinary materials like firewood, logs, tipi poles, wood framing for wagonogans, and other forest products. As the manager of the Don’t Move Firewood outreach campaign, I’ve received quite a few questions from the public about transporting donated firewood to the Standing Rock Reservation. I think it is important that everyone know and understand the rules about moving these materials, as well as the important reasons behind these restrictions.

The two tree-killing pests that are most critical to know about in this situation are the emerald ash borer and European gypsy moth. Both of these pests are found mainly to the east of Standing Rock, with significant populations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, as well as nearly all the adjacent states to their South and East. It is against the law to move any potentially infested material (often called a “regulated article” in official language) out of a region under quarantine for either of these pests without appropriate treatment and/or certification.

Many tribes in the Great Lakes area are already aware of the issues surrounding the emerald ash borer, as this pest not only presents a direct threat to their forests and trees, but also is a serious threat to tribes’ cultural heritage of black ash basket weaving. Thankfully, the emerald ash borer has not yet been discovered in South Dakota or North Dakota. Preventing the movement of infested materials is the best way to keep the Dakotas safe from this destructive insect. It is critically important for anyone coming from the areas known or suspected to have emerald ash borer infestations to not transport untreated hardwood firewood, nor complete ash logs without appropriate certification or treatment. Find useful maps and emerald ash borer regulations here:

© L. Greenwood, The Nature Conservancy

© L. Greenwood, The Nature Conservancy

Unlike the emerald ash borer’s dependence on ash trees, the gypsy moth can lay its well camouflaged egg masses on almost anything- and gypsy moth caterpillars will seriously damage a huge variety of tree types, including birch, cottonwood, oak, and more. Gypsy moths lay eggs on natural materials stored outside like tipi poles, logs, or wagonogan framing as well as non-natural outdoor objects like RV tires, canvas tent walls, and even decorations like garden gnomes. The states and regions under regulation to prevent the further spread of European gypsy moth have a lot of overlap with the states regulated due to the presence of emerald ash borer – but the boundaries of those regulations, and the rules themselves, are not identical. Find maps and important information here:

The examples of emerald ash borer and European gypsy moth are just two of the potential invasive species that could be accidentally brought into the Standing Rock Reservation. Other species not native to the Dakotas like the Asian longhorned beetle, walnut twig beetle, heath snail, and even the mountain pine beetle could be accidentally brought into the area from out of state.

It isn’t just against the law to move items out of regulated areas – it is also potentially very destructive to the natural environment of the Dakotas. Thankfully, there are things you can do to help protect the trees of the Dakotas from these damaging pests.

Contact your local Department of Agriculture, Department of Forestry, or USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) staff before you gather firewood, logs, or other forest products for transport or donation. These groups will be able to tell you what is legal, and may be able help you adhere to the laws in cases where pre-departure inspection and certification is possible.

When transporting items like wall tents, RVs, or trailers, make sure everything is as clean and tidy as possible before you depart. Leftover hay can spread weed seeds, gypsy moth egg masses can be stuck to wheel wells, and even excess caked dirt can hold non-native insects, fungi, seeds, and other threats to the natural areas of the Dakotas.

Tell your friends about the issues of transporting invasive species. For more information on firewood regulations, visit or or

Leigh Greenwood is the manager of The Nature Conservancy’s Don’t Move Firewood campaign, which strives to provide accurate and up to date information on the topic of firewood as a pathway for the movement of invasive forest pests. Learn more about Don’t Move Firewood here:

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