Summer Outdoor Activities and Invasive Species

Summer Outdoor Activities and Invasive Species: Protect Maine’s Forests

View as a webpage  /  Share

Plant Health

July 3, 2024

Summer Outdoor Activities and Invasive Species: Protect Maine’s Forests

Augusta, Maine – Mainers and visitors are eager to enjoy camping, hiking, and other outdoor recreational activities as summer unfolds. However, these treasured pastimes have a hidden threat: the spread of tree-killing invasive plants, insects, and diseases that cause significant environmental damage.

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s (DACF) Plant Health and Forest Health Divisions have joined forces to launch the “Protect Maine’s Forests” awareness outreach campaign to combat this issue. This initiative aims to inform and educate outdoor enthusiasts on preventing the introduction and spread of invasive pests.

“Invasive plants, insects, and diseases often spread without our knowledge, significantly altering and affecting our forests and landscapes,” said Gary Fish, Maine State Horticulturist. “While we can’t control the natural spread of these species, such as by animals or the wind, we can reduce movement, particularly for those associated with outdoor recreation.”

The campaign, which started in June, urges everyone who enjoys the outdoors to follow three critical steps when traveling to or leaving the woods:

  • Do not move firewood.
  • Check vehicles for hitchhiking pests.
  • Clean and dry gear thoroughly.

These precautions are crucial for preventing other invasive species, such as the Asian longhorned beetle and spotted lanternfly, from establishing in Maine. These pests have caused widespread plant and tree deaths in the US. The Asian longhorned beetle targets maple trees, while the spotted lanternfly feeds on trees and valuable crops like grapes and hops.

  • Buy Firewood Where You Burn It
    One of the most common ways invasive pests are spread is through the movement of firewood. Campers moving firewood distances greater than 10 miles within Maine or from other states can unknowingly introduce forest pests. To prevent the spread of these pests, buying or gathering firewood near where it will be burned or purchasing certified heat-treated firewood is crucial.
  • Avoid Hitchhikers
    A useful tip for all outdoor adventurers is to keep a brush in your vehicle. Use it to clean off boots, clothing, bicycles, and gear, especially items stored outdoors. This should be done before setting out on a trip and returning from the forest.
  • Keep Your Gear Clean
    Outdoor enthusiasts are encouraged to take simple but crucial steps to help protect our forests. Since invasive plant seeds and insects can lodge in dirt on boots, bike tires, and gear, it is vital to thoroughly clean all equipment before and after venturing outdoors. This practice helps prevent the dispersal of insects or their eggs to new areas, maintaining our natural landscapes’ value, health, and beauty.

“Protecting our forest health is critical to maintaining the biodiversity and ecological balance that supports both wildlife and human communities,” said Karen Coluzzi, an entomologist with DACF’s Plant Health Division. “By monitoring and managing insect populations, we can prevent the spread of invasive species and ensure our forests remain resilient and vibrant for future generations.”

If you’ve traveled to a state where the spotted lanternfly is established, Coluzzi recommends inspecting your vehicle and belongings before returning to Maine. Soon, adult lanternflies will emerge and can easily hitchhike in and on cars, trucks, boats, and plant material. As of June 2024, the spotted lanternfly has been found in 17 U.S. states, including Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

By following these guidelines, we can all help protect Maine’s forests from the threat of invasive species. Let’s work together to keep our natural landscapes healthy and thriving for future generations. Learn more about Maine’s Invasive Plant Rules and the ban on moving firewood.


Media contact: Jim Britt