As managers of valuable environmental lands, Parklands Rangers often need to reinforce the message: Local bushlands and roadsides are definitely off limits for firewood collecting.
Firewood collecting has traditionally been a family recreation activity, and many people feel they are doing a good service by ‘cleaning up’ the bush and reducing the fire hazard. However, understanding of the detrimental effects of removing timber from the natural cycle has grown and access to DIY wood collecting has been restricted.
In our area, it is only legal to collect firewood in designated crown lands at certain times of year, on private land with the permission of the land owner, and occasionally under special circumstances through Wodonga and Indigo Councils. It is not legal to collect from any roadsides.
The managers of public lands 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.ffm.vic.gov.au/firewood/firewood-collection-in-your-region to find out where the local designated areas are. DELWP has strict rules about collection. Find them here.
- 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. Apply for a permit at 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
- In Indigo Shire, you cannot freely collect wood from a fallen tree on Council land (park, creek, river or bushland reserve) or on Crown land (national park, state forest, local reserve). 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. Call the customer service officers on 1300 365 003, download application or apply online.
- Albury Council does not allow firewood collecting on any local government land, including parks, reserves and roadsides. See their Firewood Collection web page.
- 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!