Depending on where you live, local government agencies that oversee public lands may issue firewood permits. For instance, the Department of Natural Resources or USDA Forest Service in the state of Michigan both issue firewood permits. The permits can be purchased from a local office, and firewood can be harvested during specific times of the year.

Note that these agencies provide limited openings for the public to cut firewood in approved areas on state forest lands where the right cut trees are left at timber harvest locations. Buyers of forest land timber use most of the branches left after harvesting trees, so keep in mind that there are limited opportunities for collecting personal firewood.

The regulations governing wood harvesting in the United States are quite standard and easy to understand. The wood must be completely down on the ground before you can cut it up and haul it away. You are not allowed to harvest wood in wilderness areas, near active timber sales, developed recreation areas, or in restricted experimental areas of forests held out for long-term research.

When harvesting wood, it helps to understand how to identify the best tree species for firewood. Hardwoods like ash, oak, or maple are desirable since they burn a long time, compared to pine which burns hot but very fast. Also note that these hardwoods have to sit and dry before use, but that process is usually well underway if the wood’s already been down for a year or two by the time you extract it.

The ideal time to hunt for downed wood is in early spring when the thaw is underway but there’s still a coating of snow on the forest floor, making it easier to drag wood on a sled out to your vehicle. Winter road crews also discard a lot of downed wood along the sides of roads, including big trees that are easy pickings.

If you get caught cutting firewood in a national forest the cost is very expensive. At a minimum, you will pay $300. If you have wood in your truck, you will be fined for the wood and the wood will be confiscated. Note that the price to buy a permit for four cords is only $20, so take the time to purchase the required Personal Use Firewood Permit.

If you are stopped and asked to show your permit, you will also be required to show your driver’s license. If you fail to show your permit you will be ticketed as if you are cutting illegally. The minimum fine is $300. If you fail to show your driver’s license, you will be ticketed for not having your license. In addition, any wood that you have in the back of your truck or trailer will be taken. Please have your permit and driver’s license handy in case you need to show it.

Types of Firewood Permit

Note that the price of permits varies depending on the type of firewood harvested and where you live. However, here are some of the most common types of firewood permits:

  • Free Personal Use Permits

Note that this permit allows cutting a specified amount of down and dead wood in specified areas at no cost. Howbeit, there are not always free-use wood areas authorized, so you will need to regularly check with your local forest authority to see if one presently exists.

  • Personal Use Paid Permits

These are permits that allow the cutting of dead standing or down dead trees that meet certain criteria in specified areas at a considerably low cost. Note there is always a specified minimum purchase allowed for paid permits.

  • Commercial Permits

These permits allow the collection of firewood to sell to make profits. Have it in mind that Personal Use Paid Permits are not permitted to be used to collect firewood for commercial purposes. You will have to inquire with your local forest authority for information about any commercial locations that might exist.

  • Ceremonial Permits: These permits allow ethnic members to collect medicinal and ceremonial plants.
  • Green Wood Permits: Sometimes, your local forest authority occasionally offers green wood permits to the public.

Cost of Buying Firewood Permit in 2021

Note that the cost will differ between forests; therefore, ensure to check with your National Forest office to see what permits they offer. Notably, a Personal Use Firewood Permit on National Forest lands is $5.00 per cord. Remember that a cord of firewood is equal to 128 cubic feet of wood.

Ideally, firewood is cut into 16 inch lengths and is tightly stacked in three rows, 4 feet high and 8 feet long, totaling 128 cubic feet. Your National Forest office may have a limit on how many cords you can purchase. For example, on National Forest lands in Idaho, you can purchase a permit for no less than four cords ($20) and no more than twelve cords ($60).

How to Buy Firewood Permit in 2021

According to reports, there are 154 national forests in the United States, which cover around 193 million acres. All but 10 states contain at least one national forest so it is very likely that you are close enough to at least one of them to cut your own firewood. Cutting your own firewood will cost you a fraction of what it will cost you to buy it from someone else. Nonetheless, here are steps to acquire a firewood permit in the United States;

  1. Determine What Region You Are In

The United States national forest is divided into 9 regions. They are numbered 1-10, but there is no region 7. In 1965, some changes took place and region 7 was eliminated. NThe USDA website breaks down the individual regions.

  1. Contact Your Nearest National Forest District Office

Call the office or go in for a visit if you know the number and address. If you don’t have that information already, then Google “Forest Service Office (your city and state)”. A USDA website should appear as an option. Follow that link to find the contact information for your local Forest Service office.

  1. Buy a Personal Use Firewood Permit

On the sidebar of the website you will see a drop down menu for “Passes and Permits”. Click and follow that link, then click on “Firewood Permits” or “Forest Product Permits”. Depending on the region, you may have the option to buy a permit through the mail, at the Forest Service office, or even at another designated location such as a hardware store. But if you don’t see those options, use the contact information on the website to call their office.

Conclusion

Cutting your own firewood is super rewarding and a whole lot of fun and hard work! It is also a ton cheaper than buying pre-cut firewood from someone else! It is simple to obtain a Firewood Permit and it’s not expensive either. If you decide to purchase a permit to use on a piece of public land, please take the time to educate yourself about the rules and requirements. Call or stop by your local government office and ask them about the laws specific to your state.

Solomon. O'Chucks