The Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest announced that they will continue to offer free firewood and other forest product gathering for personal use for the remainder of 2020, but starting June 1, the agency is asking that the public first call to obtain a hard-copy permit in order to track harvesting and communicate important wildfire safety.
Those interested need to first contact their local unit by phone and provide their contact details. Then a free, hard-copy permit will be issued by mail. In-person pickup at a local station may be available, depending upon location, and will comply with social distancing requirements.
The permit will be valid between June 1 and December 30, 2020.
The free permits allow for the removal of downed timber or the cutting of standing dead trees for personal firewood of up to 12 cords. They do not allow for the collection of limited post and rails for any commercial harvesting. Those permits require a fee.
“People might ask, 'well, why do I have to get a permit, if its free?' Part of that whole process is so you can talk to people who are familiar with the landscape, what's going on the ground right now, road conditions, best places to go. To kind of bring the respective woodcutter up to speed on what they might encounter and how to best prepare for that," says Duane Buchi, Acting Public Affairs Officer for the Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest.
You can contact any local national forest office for more details.