There is a ban on using out-of-state firewood in Maine — but you might not know it.

Gov. John Baldacci signed the ban into law on April 1, in time for this year’s camping season. The ban is designed to keep destructive insects that might be present in the firewood away from the state’s valuable hardwood forests.

But more than halfway through the summer, state officials say it is taking longer than anticipated to put the law into effect — the draft rules originally scheduled for completion around July 4 aren’t ready.

Officials have stepped up an education campaign about the dangers of bringing firewood into Maine, but there are no regulations in place setting penalties for violations or specifying what becomes of confiscated wood.

“I think this month,” said David Struble, state entomologist at the Maine Forest Service.

Baldacci is scheduled to declare August as Asian Longhorned Beetle Awareness Month on Thursday. The proclamation is meant to raise awareness of the threat posed by the insect, which has killed tens of thousands of hardwood trees in Massachusetts, New York, Illinois and New Jersey.

The beetle was detected in Worcester, Mass., in 2008, and the city has since cut down thousands of trees where the beetles have been breeding. Longhorns were discovered in about a half dozen trees in Boston last month. The beetle — as well as the emerald ash borer, which has destroyed forests in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Ontario, Canada — are considered major threats to Maine’s 17 million acres of forest. Longhorns have not yet been detected in Maine.

It has been common practice for out-of-state campers heading to second homes and campgrounds in Maine to haul in their own firewood for campfires and heating. The practice prompted the Legislature to approve the firewood ban as an emergency measure last spring.

Struble said the delay is due in part to a lack of resources to carry out the law. He said there has been little or no money available for enforcement.

Lawmakers said they were interested in having signs put up on the Maine Turnpike, near the state line. But Struble said state transportation officials were concerned about the number of signs informing motorists of state laws that are already posted.

Officials are now looking at the possibility of posting a message on flashing mobile signs stationed along the highway, he said.

Struble said the draft rules will give some directives about the confiscation of out-of-state firewood. But it won’t be until the final rules are written, possibly this fall, that penalties are adopted. For now, he said, campers who want to turn in their out-of-state firewood may do so at any Maine Forest Service office.

Rick Abare, executive director of the Maine Campground Owners Association, said Monday that his members are eager to have the final rules adopted.

“We have nothing to hang our hats on,” Abare said.

Campground owners said they are doing their best to inform customers about the law without driving them to another campground that might be less zealous about observing the ban.

“It’s a touchy subject,” said Tom Bayley, of Bayley’s Camping Resort in Scarborough.

Bayley has posted signs about the ban and prominently displays the firewood sold at the campground, cut from woodlots nearby.

State park officials are asking campers to burn any wood they bring in from out of state within 24 hours.

“It is an honor system,” said Andy Haskell, manager at Sebago Lake State Park. The park will host an educational event on firewood and the beetle, offered by the Maine Department of Agriculture, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Aug. 14 at the park’s day use area.

 

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at: [email protected]