Handy tips for collecting firewood

Keep the home fires burning, but make sure you collect your firewood the right way. Here’s how, and why it matters.

As the nights get colder, nothing is as comforting as settling down in front of a crackling fire.

The only problem is that buying wood from the hardware shop or getting a delivery from the local wood yard can be expensive.

No-one will mind if you just collect a bit for free in a national park, right?

Wrong.

It’s illegal to take wood from national parks and reserves, even if the wood is dead or fallen.

If you are caught, you face penalties of up to $1000. You can also have your equipment seized. In the past, rangers have confiscated chainsaws and other gear from people caught illegally taking wood in parks.

The same goes for all public land, including reservoir and forest reserves.

Why are dead trees and fallen wood so important?

Dead trees and fallen branches provide vital habitat for a range of native species, including birds, possums, reptiles, insects and even other plants and fungi.

Tree holes and hollows in particular are extremely important, but they can take many years to form.

Once they do, they provide nesting and sleeping places for brush-tailed possums, goannas, and birds such as yellow-tailed black cockatoos, kookaburras and rosellas.

Some native bird species cannot breed without the right sort of holes or hollows to nest in, so the reduction in the number of old trees in the landscape has had a serious impact on their numbers.

Fallen wood can also provide hiding places and food sources for small animals such as echidnas, bats, dunnarts, pygmy possums, geckoes and other lizards.

Where can I collect firewood?

There are a few ways to collect firewood legally:

  • By agreement on private land. Know someone with a rural property with lots of trees? If you ask nicely, they might let you help yourself to some dead wood.
  • On some road verges, if you have a permit from the council. Check with the council to find out their policy on firewood collection.
  • In some ForestrySA plantation forests, but only by agreement with the ranger.

Still unsure? Contact your local council regarding the removal of trees on private property or the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources' Native Vegetation Unit for further information.

This story was originally posted in May 2016.

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