Obtaining a Woodcutting Permit

fuelwood permit

2023 season was postponed to April 17, 2023 - November 30, 2023

Each year, from April 1 to November 30, the Sierra National Forest makes available personal fuel wood gathering  permits for the public. Individuals may purchase a permit which allows them to cut and gather up to ten cords of "dead and down" wood for personal use. 

Where to Get a Woodcutting Permit - 

Before you collect any firewood you are required to obtain a firewood cutting permit. Permits are available at Forest Service offices and at some seasonal offices during the summer. The permit authorizes the signer of the permit to gather a specified amount of dead and downed wood, for his or her personal use, from any portion of the Sierra National Forest open to woodcutting.

When the permit is issued it is accompanied by a map that shows the approximate boundaries of fire danger rating areas, and special areas such as wilderness, major recreation areas, and special management zones, that are permanently closed to woodcutting. Other small areas, such as active timber sales, may be closed temporarily due to contractual agreements and responsibilities of the logging contractor. In such cases signs will be posted around the closed area.

High Sierra Ranger District - Personal use woodcutting exclusion zone map

Bass lake Ranger DIstrict -  Personal use woodcutting exclusion zone map

When you receive your permit you may be provided with special maps and instructions relating to cutting within that area.

Due to changing conditions such as road closures, weather, timber sale activity, and changing supplies of wood it will generally be necessary for you to secure current maps and instructions by visiting the office administering the area where you plan to cut. Remember that not all land within the boundary of the National Forest is public-owned. It is your responsibility to be certain you are not trespassing on private land.

Where to Cut Firewood

If you look hard enough you can find good firewood almost anywhere in the Sierra National Forest. In lower elevations that are accessible most of the year and immediately adjacent to major roads, the supply is more limited, simply because a lot of people have been there already. If you want to burn only oak or lodgepole pine, it will be harder to find. The more particular you are about the type of firewood and the distance you will travel to get it, the harder it will be to find.

For information on woodcutting locations, contact the Forest Service offices in North Fork or Prather, as they have the most updated information.

The Forest Service cannot authorize you to cut or gather wood on private land. The Sierra National Forest visitor's information maps shows the approximate locations of private landholdings and roads that are open to the public, as well as other details in navigation while in the forest. Maps can be purchased at Forest Service offices and visitor stations.

Cutting Standing Trees is Prohibited

Standing dead trees (snags) play a role in supporting wildlife populations in the forest. They are a source of food, nests, perches and protective cover for many birds and mammals. Removal of snags for firewood purpose, must be carefully managed. Public understanding and support of our snag removal policy is very important. The falling of any standing tree for fuel wood is prohibited under this permit.

There usually is ample downed material available for firewood within the timbered portion of the forest. The purpose of the firewood program is to provide you with material you can use now and remove dead wood from the forest. Sometimes a limited number of special permits are sold which authorize cutting of standing trees.

Measuring and Removing Firewood

Firewood is commonly measured in cords. A standard cord is the amount of tightly piled wood in a stack 4 feet wide by 4 feet high by 8 feet long.

The average half-ton pickup truck can carry a half cord of dry wood without overloading the vehicle. You may purchase up to ten cords of firewood for your personal use each year. If you live in an older home in the mountains, you may need all 10 cords. Valley residents in newer homes should find one or two cords adequate for their needs.

As a control on the number of cords of wood removed from the forest, you are required to attach, in a visible location on the back of the load, your LOAD RECEIPT(s) issued with your permit. One load receipt is to be attached for each one-quarter cord of wood in the load. Before attaching Load Receipt(s) to your wood, punch or ink out the month and day of removal. Load Receipt(s) must be attached to the load before leaving the wood-cutting site and moving 500 feet! Under the firewood cutting permit regulations, you may not transport material in lengths greater than 6 feet. A specific authorization is needed.

128 cubic feet of stacked, round wood equals one (1) cord. The amount of wood that may be carried varies by the size of your vehicle and the weight of the wood being hauled. Permit holders are responsible for reasonably determining the quantity of wood being removed. As a general guide, you can load 1/4 to 1/2 of a cord in most small imported or domestic mid-size pickup trucks. Full-size pickups with short beds normally hold 1/2 cord to 3/4 cord, and with side boards can hold 3/4 to 1 full cord.

Restrictions on Chain Saws

When forest vegetation gets so dry that a small spark can develop into major wildfire, chain saw use may be restricted until the critical period passes.

When use of chain saws are prohibited, you may still use hand saws or collect smaller material from the ground, except where entry is restricted because of High Fire Danger.

When fire danger reaches very high, chain saw use will be prohibited in the area. Each Ranger District may designate specific local areas exempt from chainsaw prohibitions. These areas would be identified and signed as open to woodcutting. To determine if chain saws may be used in a specific area on a given day, call the 24 hour fire weather information line at 559-500-4488, or select this link for Woodcutting and Fire Restriction Information. This report is updated daily around 5:00 p.m. during fire season

Areas Specifically Closed to Woodcutting