Yes, you can collect firewood in a national forest. In fact, every national forest allows visitors to collect firewood and burn it at their campsite. However, you are limited to picking up only “dead and down” wood, and not cut down standing trees or remove branches.
Can You Collect Firewood in a National Forest?
The U.S. Forest Service, which manages all of the national forests and national grasslands in the United States, has a nationwide policy of allowing its visitors to collect dead and down wood for the purpose of burning at their campsites.
- However, visitors are not allowed to carry that wood outside of forest boundaries.
- Visitors are not allowed to sell that wood to other campers (you are still allowed to give it away for free)
- Visitors are not allowed to cut down standing trees, dead or alive.
- Visitors are not allowed to remove branches from standing trees.
This is supported under a federal regulation…
The following are prohibited: (a) Cutting or otherwise damaging any timber, tree, or other forest product, except as authorized by a special-use authorization, timber sale contract, or Federal law or regulation.CFR Title 36 § 261.6 Timber and other forest products.
Can You Burn Wood Left Behind by Cutting Crews?
Yes, you can. The U.S. Forest Service often hires cutting crews to cut down dead trees and branches. They will cut them into large chunks and leave them along the sides of roads. The Forest Service considers these to be “dead and down” wood and you are welcome to collect this for campfire use. However, you are still not allowed to remove this wood from forest boundaries, nor sell it.
Is a Permit Required to Collect Firewood?
No, not in a national forest. As long as you are collecting “dead and down” wood, a permit is not required. Nor is there a fee.
- Permits are required to cut down trees or remove branches.
- A permit is also required to move wood outside of forest boundaries.
Each Forest Has Areas Where Firewood Collection is Illegal
All national forests have areas where the collection of dead and down is prohibited. These are mainly day use areas such as trails, trail heads, picnic areas, boat launches, viewing decks, parking areas, and visitor centers.
- If you are boondocking, any dead and down wood you find around your camp is legal to collect and burn.
- It’s highly advised you visit a forest visitor center to check for these areas, along with other temporary restrictions that may be in effect.
- Always visit that national forest’s website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/
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