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National forests firewood permits help slash heating costs | News

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National forests firewood permits help slash heating costs
National forests firewood permits help slash heating costs

RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (September 16, 2014) – As cooler temperatures loom around the corner, many homeowners are considering how best to heat their homes this winter. The Ozark-St. Francis and Ouachita National Forests are helping homeowners answer this question by offering firewood permits in many areas of the Arkansas and Oklahoma forests.

"Collecting dead and down firewood on national forests is a great way to help bear the high cost of beating colder temperatures," said Shawn Cochran, Ozark-St. Francis National Forests Ecosystems Staff Officer. "Firewood permits are affordable; they help remove burnable material from the forest floor, and wood heat is both economical and efficient."

Firewood permits are sold in cubic feet, but in simple terms, 100 cubic feet (1ccf) is roughly equivalent to a little more than ¾ of a cord of wood. A cord is measured as 4' x 4'x 8' of tightly stacked wood. However, according to Cochran, since most people don't cut their firewood to that length, they should take that into account when calculating how much wood they've collected so they don't shortchange themselves.

"Most stoves and fireplaces easily accommodate firewood measuring 12" to 16," he said. "It is important for permittees to recognize that the permit is good for four cords measured at 4'x4'x8' and if they cut their wood in shorter lengths, they should factor that in to determine how many cords have been cut."

Permits are issued for specific areas identified by local Ranger Districts. A minimum fee of $20 will cover the cost of approximately 3 or 4 cords of firewood, depending on the national forest. A limited number of permits are issued based on availability and accessibility.

Firewood permits are sold annually on the national forests, but in 2014 a new wrinkle has been added to the process. The Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive species that kills all varieties of ash trees, has been identified in Arkansas, prompting the Arkansas State Plant Board to enact an emergency quarantine on certain wood products in the following 25 Arkansas counties: Ashley, Bradley, Calhoun, Clark, Cleveland, Columbia, Dallas, Drew, Garland, Grant, Hempstead, Hot Spring, Howard, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lincoln, Little River, Miller, Montgomery, Nevada, Ouachita, Pike, Saline, Sevier and Union.

"The quarantine means that firewood collected in one of those counties must be used in the same county and cannot be removed," said Steve Cole, Ouachita National Forest Integrated Resources Leader. "Visitors to these forests often bring firewood from home to their campsite, or collect firewood at a campsite and opt to load it up and take it with them when they leave. Whether you're in a quarantined county or not, we are urging people to burn their firewood in the same county where they buy it."

While the borer has not yet been identified in Oklahoma, state officials also recommend using extreme precautions when purchasing and hauling firewood from one area to another.

To identify firewood cutting areas on the national forest, call the nearest Ranger District office for more information or click here.