P.E.I. National Park is expanding its fight against invasive species that can come to the Island on firewood brought by unwitting campers.
"There are some invasives that we absolutely don't want here that are in Nova Scotia [and] New Brunswick," said Beth Hoar, chair of the P.E.I. Invasive Species Council.
The Don't Move Firewood project aims to eliminate out-of-province wood that may carry invasive plant pests such as the emerald ash borer, which can seriously impact tree populations.
To prevent that, Parks Canada is installing firewood drop-off bins in Cavendish and Stanhope, to go along with bins installed last year at visitor centres in Borden-Carleton and Wood Islands.
The bins contain sticky traps so any bugs on the wood can't escape.
A conservation team will monitor the bins to study any key invasive species that have come in with the wood. The bundles of firewood are then taken to P.E.I. Energy Systems to be incinerated.
Campers might not be aware
Kassidy Matheson, invasive species technician with the council, says last year the focus of the program was just getting the drop–off bins in place. But with a busy tourism season ramping up this year, they're now trying to draw more attention to the initiative.
"Tourism season is really big on the Island and we have like over a million people, I think, pre-COVID numbers, that would come here and stay during the summer," Matheson said.
"There could be a percentage of those that are campers and that might not be aware of the issue."
Matheson said the goal is to set up even more bins, work with privately owned campgrounds and put up signs to alert more people.
"Prevention is one of the things that we are the most concerned about," said Hoar.
She said the public's awareness of invasive species is crucial because ecosystems are at risk. Some of these species even pose human health risks.
The initiative also includes an exchange program: campers can deposit firewood into one of the disposal bins in exchange for a new, local bundle of wood at participating park locations.
"If we notice visitors bringing their own firewood, we explain that we do not allow firewood from outside of the park, direct them to the drop-off boxes, and offer them a free bundle of firewood in exchange for any firewood they brought in," Parks Canada told CBC News via email.
Even if campers brought wood from P.E.I., it is not allowed in the national park — only wood purchased at the park can be used for fires.