Springtime; time to sharpen up the chainsaw and go hunting for next winter’s firewood supply!
Firewood collecting can be a great family recreation activity, and many people feel they are doing a good service by ‘cleaning up’ the bush and reducing the fire hazard. However, our local councils all have strict rules about when, where and under what circumstances you can collect your own firewood:
- The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) allows firewood collection, from designated areas only, during two statewide firewood seasons: autumn season (1 March to 30 June), spring season (1 September to 30 November) Go to www.delwp.vic.gov.au/firewood to find out where wood can be taken from this season.
- NSW State Forests nearest collection areas are up past Holbrook. You need to have a valid permit and have paid for the wood that you want to collect. Go to www.forestrycorporation.com.au
- Wodonga Council may allow collection of fallen timber, but you must apply for a permit specifying exactly which timber you will be taking. Phone 02 6022 9300
- Indigo Shire Council requires a permit for roadside firewood collection, depending on the safety and conservation aspects of each location — there are no “blanket collection areas” on local roads. Phone Jenny Pena 03 5728 8000
- Albury Council does not allow firewood collecting on any local government land. See www.alburycity.nsw.gov.au/environment-and-waste/natural-environment/firewood-collection
- Vicroads currently does not allow firewood collection from any major roadsides.
So why has firewood collection become so strictly controlled?
Simply put, people collecting firewood means birds and animals losing their food and homes, and around towns and cities in rural Victoria this is causing major problems for our wildlife. Currently, at least 17 animals and 20 bird species are are threatened by firewood collection from roadsides, native forests and woodlands.
In one way or another, removing fallen or standing timber also removes habitat. Fallen timber would normally rot where it lies, and many insect species depend on this wood for their survival. They in turn are part of complex food webs for reptiles, birds and animals. A number of small mammal species rely on fallen wood for shelter, with the associated cracks and crevices and adjacent leaf litter providing a rich source of insect food. Fallen wood provides shelter and basking sites for snakes and lizards and refuge sites for frogs.
Standing dead trees, especially those with hollows, are vital to healthy ecosystems, providing perching roosts and often the only suitable places for birds and animals like possums and gliders to nest.
Adding insult to injury for wildlife, firewood collection can actually increase the damage caused by bushfire, by creating concentrations of small fuel while removing the larger logs which would act as shelter in a bushfire.
So, before you get out that chainsaw, check that your planned outing is legal, and share a thought for those others also relying on the wood!