Gathering Firewood on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests
Personal firewood cutting is free to the public, but a free hard-copy use permit is required.
How do I get a permit?
- To obtain a free, personal use permit, simply visit your nearest ranger district office or the supervisor's office in Coeur d'Alene. A representative will ask you for some basic, identifying information, then issue you a permit.
- Here is a list of our office locations and phone numbers
- Personal firewood cutting is free in the Idaho Panhandle National Forests.
- A free hard-copy permit is required for firewood and other forest products.
- Woodcutters can take up to 12 cords of firewood for personal use. A cord is the amount of tightly piled wood in a stack four feet high by four feet wide by eight feet long.
- Personal use firewood cutting allows you to remove downed timber or to cut standing dead trees in allowed areas.
- Contact the local ranger district to see if there are any specific local restrictions or requirements other than those listed below.
Where Can I Cut?
Check with your nearest Forest Service office to find out if there are areas specifically designated for firewood cutting. Several districts have preferred firewood cutting areas and certain areas closed to firewood cutting, shown on these PDF maps:
- Bonners Ferry Ranger District Firewood Map
- Priest Lake Ranger District Firewood Map
- Coeur d'Alene River Ranger District Firewood Cutting Area Maps
- Unknown Pony preferred fuelwood unit (June 23 - August 31, 2023)
- St. Joe Ranger District Firewood Maps
If the district doesn't list preferred areas, you can cut anywhere on the Forest with the following exceptions:
- Firewood gathering is prohibited within 150-feet of any running stream.
- Private Property: Privately owned lands within the National Forests are often marked by signs and fences. Look at your Forest map to be sure you are not cutting on private land.
- Timber Sales: Timber sales are usually marked with a sign or painted trees. Please don't cut anything in these areas.
Protect Riparian Areas
Please help us protect water quality and fish habitat. Avoid cutting, piling, or gathering firewood near any stream, pond, lake, marshy or wet area. Check your wood cutting permit for guidance on specific distances.
What Can I Cut?
The Trees of North Idaho guide will help you to learn the different tree species in our area.
Before you cut a tree:
- Be sure it's dead.
- Check to see there are no green needles left.
You can cut any dead standing or down tree for firewood with the following exceptions:
- Larch: Be careful to avoid cutting live larch (tamarack) trees. These trees lose their needles each fall. Look on the ground to see if needles have recently fallen. Check to see if the bark inside is tight. If it is, the tree is probably alive. Go to the Trees of North Idaho guide for more information about larch.
- Cedar: Do not cut standing or down dead cedar trees. Cedar is marketable timber for fences and shakes but is not suitable for firewood. Go to the Trees of North Idaho guide for more information about cedar.
- Pacific yew: Do not cut standing or down dead Pacific yew.
- Wildlife trees: Standing and down dead trees (snags) provide a source of food, nests, perches, and protective cover for many birds and mammals in the forest. Please don't cut trees with paint marks or signs, broken tops, trunk holes or visible nests.
Measuring and Hauling Firewood
Firewood is commonly measured in cords. A standard cord is the amount of tightly piled wood in a stack 4 feet wide and 4 feet high by 8 feet long. Six feet is the maximum length piece that may be removed under the firewood program without written approval. Written approval will be site specific with beginning and ending dates and will be only for the district from where the firewood permit is issued.
The Best Firewood
Some trees burn hotter than others. The list below shows common types of trees in our area and their heat values in BTUs (British Thermal Units). A higher valueindicates more heat.
|Western Larch (Tamarack)||22.3|
|Douglas Fir (Red Fir)||20.6|
|Ponderosa Pine (Yellow Pine)||17.1|
|Grand Fir (White Fir)||16.7|
Chainsaw and Fire Safety
As a chainsaw operator, you must have a serviceable fire extinguisher (8 oz. liquid chemical or 1 lb. dry chemical) and shovel available at all times.
1. Your saw must be equipped with an approved spark arrestor.
2. You can avoid starting a fire with your chainsaw by following these common sense rules: BEFORE YOU GO...
- Please leave your wood cutting area clean. Scatter debris away from roads, culverts and ditches. Pack your garbage out with you.
- Keep the saw well away from cigarettes or open flame when adjusting or fueling the saw.
- Let your saw cool for at least 5 minutes before refueling.
- Carry your gas in a metal safety can equipped with a spout. Use a funnel to avoid spilling gasoline on the ground.
- Before starting your saw, move it from the place where it was fueled and away from gasoline vapors. Also, remove oil and sawdust from all metal parts.
3. You must carry a shovel and a bucket when traveling through or on National Forest lands during fire season. Contact your nearest Forest Service office for information concerning local fire danger and chainsaw use restrictions.
4. Be aware of the dangers when cutting near or along roads.