Winter's pretty much over, so it's time to think about next winter, right? The Bitterroot National forest knows that harvesting firewood from the national forests happens year-round, so they want to let you know that you need a free permit to do it.

Forest Supervisor Matt Anderson said the free permit will let the forest personnel track where the harvesting is happening and also let people know about wildfire safety and collection rules. He said, "Although these permits are normally offered with a nominal fee, we feel it is important to continue offering free firewood to the public this year. We just ask folks to follow the conditions and requirements listed on their permits and be respectful of other forest users and our natural resources."

The permits allow removal of downed timber or the cutting of "standing dead" trees on the national forests in the Northern Region. This is for your own personal use. If you're selling firewood, you need to get a commercial permit. Those are available, too, but there is a fee.

The personal use permits allow you to cut up to 12 cords of wood. A cord is a stack of wood four feet high, four feet wide and eight feet long. Rules include keeping your vehicle on established roads, have a chainsaw with an approved spark arrester, along with a shovel and fire extinguisher. No cutting is allowed within 150 feet of streams, creeks or waterways and is not allowed on developed recreation areas, campgrounds or in a Wild and Scenic River corridor. There are clean-up and piling rules, too. And, get a map!

Some temporary roads will be opened as the snow melts and the mud dries out and some designated firewood areas will be announced in June, according to Tod McKay. To get a free Personal Use Firewood Permit, call the Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor's Office in Hamilton 406-363-7100, Stevensville Ranger at 406-777-5461, Darby/Sula Ranger at 406-821-3913 and West Fork Ranger at 406-821-3269.

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