Last winter with so many people needing to keep warm while working from home, local environmental reserves took a beating from DIY firewood collectors, resulting in a large loss of valuable habitat.
Now here we are again; winter is around the corner and people need a supply of good, dry firewood. Where to go?
These days DIY firewood collection is largely illegal. Without doubt, the easiest, most accessible, reliable and ethical source of firewood is an accredited dealer. There are plenty of local suppliers, listed in the Yellow pages and other sites, sourcing sustainably grown, good quality firewood.
All regional land managers now have strict rules about when, where and under what circumstances people can collect their own firewood. In Albury and Wodonga, local bushlands and roadsides are definitely off-limits for firewood collecting. Here’s a local update for 2021:
- General Roadsides: VicRoads does not permit collection of firewood along any of the roads it manages (main roads or arterial roads) at any time. In NSW, roadside firewood collection is expressly prohibited on all roads without specific approval from the local Council.
- Albury: AlburyCity does not allow firewood collecting on roadsides, in reserves or from any local government land. Taking firewood or other materials such as plants or rocks is illegal in Albury and reporting of illegal activity encouraged. See https://www.alburycity.nsw.gov.au/environment/trees-and-vegetation/firewood-collection
- Wodonga: Roadside firewood collection is prohibited in the Wodonga Council LGA except in exceptional circumstances such as following exceptional wind storms, in which case specific permission is required. Phone 02 6022 9300
- Indigo Shire: Roadside firewood collection is prohibited with the exception of sites listed seasonally on the Indigo Shire Council website. These change each year to allow ecological recovery. A permit is required. Go to https://www.indigoshire.vic.gov.au/Living-in-Indigo/Environment/Firewood,
- Federation Shire: Residents of the Federation Council area can collect firewood from designated sites only. A permit is required. Collection limits apply. Firewood collected must be for personal use only and cannot be sold. Apply for a permit on the Federation Council website.
- Victorian State Forests: The Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) allows firewood collection from different sites in State forests every year, with the closest to Wodonga this year being Yackandandah/Stanley/Beechworth sites. Collection is allowed in two seasons only: autumn season (1 March to 30 June) and spring season (1 September to 30 November). Collection limits apply. Firewood collected must be for personal use only and cannot be sold. Go to the Forest Fire Management website and look up Hume Region sites to find out where wood can be taken from this season.
- NSW State Forests allow firewood collection by permit only. The 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 https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/transaction/apply-firewood-permit or see more info on their fact sheet.
Why is firewood collection so strictly controlled? Simply put, people collecting firewood means birds and animals losing their food and homes. On the outskirts of rural cities in particular, the constant removal of timber is causing major problems for our wildlife and contributing to the decline of endangered species.
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.
Contrary to popular belief, 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.
As community concern increases over habitat decline, there are willing eyes and ears on the ground to spot illegal firewood collectors and report those who are doing the wrong thing.
In Victoria suspected illegal wood collecting can be reported on 136 186, in Albury call 02 6023 8111