(WBIR) Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are proposing a change aimed at protecting the national park.
The park is proposing to place further restrictions on firewood brought into the Smokies. The proposal calls for campers to only be allowed to bring certified, heat-treated firewood into the park.
Park spokesperson Dana Soehn said, "Unfortunately there are a lot of hitchhikers on firewood and some of these hitchhikers can cause great damage."
Soehn explained some of the trees in the Smokies have already suffered significant damage from the invasive pests, causing widespread loss of the park's hemlock and chestnut trees.
"The species that we're looking at now, like the gypsy moth and the Asian long-horned beetle have made their way from the northeast down south and if you've been to areas like Shenandoah National Park you've seen widespread damage and loss of many of the oaks and other species that the gypsy moth feeds on," Soehn said.
Robert Green of Lousiville, KY said he and his relatives visit the Smokies every year for a family vacation. Green said when he first heard about the proposal he was upset, but now he's in support.
Green said, "I want this to be here for my kids and my kids' kids and be here for everybody else. I don't want to see it get eaten up by bugs."
A final decision on the proposal is expected by the end of the year. If approved, the new regulation will take effect in March 2015. Park visitors may still collect dead and down wood in the park for campfires.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are asking visitors to make the firewood switch now. Heat-treated wood is available from an increasing number of businesses outside the park and staff are working with concessionaires within the park to use low-risk wood sources until they are able to make the transition.
The public may submit comments by: mail at 107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738; email at email@example.com; or comment cards available at visitor centers and campgrounds.
For more information about firewood and forest and pests in the park, visit http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/firewood-alert.htm.