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Wood-gatherers good for forests

FRIDAY, JULY 25, 2014

Using a chain saw on National Forest lands can actually be good for the trees.

Each year, Inland Northwest residents haul thousands of truckloads of firewood out of local forests. With families out gathering wood for the winter, the Idaho Panhandle National Forests is steering woodcutters to areas near Wolf Lodge Bay and Flat Creek Saddle where rangers want to thin out dead trees.

“This stuff is cured and ready to burn,” said Jason Kirchner, a Forest Service spokesman.

By removing some of the standing dead and fallen trees, wood-cutters are helping improve the resiliency of the forest, he said. However, the Wolf Lodge area is near a grove of old-growth trees where harvest is not allowed. That area is marked with “no cutting” signs.

Local residents can pick up maps to the preferred firewood areas when they purchase woodcutting permits at the Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District’s Fernan office in Coeur d’Alene or the Silver Valley office in Smelterville.

People also can find a mail-in permit form and maps at

A $20 permit purchases four cords of firewood for personal use.

On the Colville National Forest in northeast Washington, maps of preferred cutting areas also are available with the purchase of permits. Due to high demand for firewood in the local area, those areas are always changing, said Franklin Pemberton, the forest spokesman.

“We have a lot of folks that only heat with wood,” Pemberton said.

About 11,000 pickup loads of firewood are taken from the Colville National Forest each year, he said.

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