HELENA, MT – National Forests and Grasslands throughout the Northern Region 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 and collection information.

“As the impacts from COVID-19 continue to be felt across the country, we remain committed to providing services on our public lands and doing what we can to help those in need,” said Regional Forester Leanne Marten.

Those interested in collecting firewood and other forest products and botanicals need to first contact their local unit by phone and provide their contact details, and a free, hard-copy permit will be issued by mail. In-person pickup at a local station may also be available, depending upon location, and will comply with the Center for Disease Control’s requirements for social distancing. 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 under most conditions on National Forests and Grasslands within Montana, Northern Idaho and portions of North and South Dakota. They do not allow for the collection of more limited post and poles/rails or for any commercial harvesting. Those permits will still require a fee. They also do not apply to collecting products on other public lands such as Bureau of Land Management lands. All permits -- whether free or paid -- help the USDA Forest Service track usage and ensure important information is conveyed to permittees regarding wildfire safety, suitable locations, collection amounts and any other restrictions.

Woodcutters can obtain permits for 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. Those collecting any forest product should use caution while driving on Forest Service roads at this time of the year. Many remain snow covered and icy at higher elevations. Roads at lower elevations are wet and muddy and the soft roadbed can easily be damaged by vehicle traffic. Following strict wildfire safety practices outlined in the permit is also required.

The collection of many other forest products outside of firewood do not require a permit. For example, up to five gallons of mushrooms can be gathered without a permit on all units throughout the region. But the requirements for some products such as berries varies by forest, so it is still important to call ahead for updated local requirements.

For more information, contact your local Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest office at:

Belt Creek-White Sulphur Springs Ranger District Offices:

• Belt Creek Office, Neihart, MT - (406) 236-5511

• White Sulphur Springs Office - White Sulphur Springs, MT - (406) 547-3361

Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest Great Falls Office - Great Falls, MT - (406) 791-7700

Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest Helena Office - Helena, MT - (406) 449-5201

Helena Ranger District - Helena, MT - (406) 449-5201

Judith-Musselshell Ranger District Offices:

• Judith Ranger Station - Stanford, MT - (406) 566-2292

• Musselshell Ranger Station - Harlowton, MT - (406) 632-4391

Lincoln Ranger District - Lincoln, MT - (406) 362-7000

Rocky Mountain Ranger District - Choteau, MT - (406) 466-5341

Augusta Information Station - Augusta, MT - (406) 562-3247

Townsend Ranger District - Townsend, MT - (406) 266-3425