It's time for firewood gatherers to head into the hills.

The Bitterroot National Forest and the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest have started issuing personal firewood permits. A handout with the rules is available at forest service offices or at the Bitterroot National Forest website.

According to Tod McKay, the Bitterroot permits are $20 minimum for four cords of wood. Additional one-cord permits can be purchased for $5 each. One person can cut at maximum of 12 cords per year. A cord is tightly piled wood in a stack 4 feet high by 4 feet wide by 8 feet long.

The permits allow you to cut standing dead trees or downed timber in most areas of national forest land, but there are rules:

  • Always have your firewood permit with you while harvesting wood.
  • Have an approved spark arrester on chainsaws and splitters.
  • Do not cut or remove wood within 150 feet of streams, creeks or waterways.
  • No firewood gathering in developed recreation areas, campgrounds or along Wild and Scenic Corridors. Check maps and ask local rangers for more information.
  • Pile any slash away from roads, ditches or overhead lines.
  • Slash piles should be 6-10 feet in diameter and at least 5 feet high.
  • Keep slash piles at least 15 feet away from trees.
  • Carry a shovel and fire extinquisher.
  • Be careful on forest roads and try to stay off muddy and soft roadbeds. Report any damage you might find, too.