Posted: 29 June 2017
As managers of valuable environmental lands, Parklands Rangers often need to reinforce the message: Local bushlands and roadsides are definitely off limits for firewood collecting.
Firewood collecting has traditionally been a family recreation activity, and many people feel they are doing a good service by 'cleaning up' the bush and reducing the fire hazard. However, understanding of the detrimental effects of removing timber from the natural cycle has grown and access to DIY wood collecting has been restricted.
In our area, it is only legal to collect firewood in designated crown lands at certain times of year, on private land with the permission of the land owner, and occasionally under special circumstances through Wodonga and Indigo Councils. It is not legal to collect from any roadsides.
The managers of public lands all have strict rules about when, where and under what circumstances you can collect your own firewood:
So why has firewood collection become so strictly controlled?
Simply put, people collecting firewood means birds and animals losing their food and homes, and around towns and cities in rural Victoria this is causing major problems for our wildlife. Currently, at least 17 animals and 20 bird species are are threatened by firewood collection from roadsides, native forests and woodlands.
In one way or another, removing fallen or standing timber also removes habitat. Fallen timber would normally rot where it lies, and many insect species depend on this wood for their survival. They in turn are part of complex food webs for reptiles, birds and animals. A number of small mammal species rely on fallen wood for shelter, with the associated cracks and crevices and adjacent leaf litter providing a rich source of insect food. Fallen wood provides shelter and basking sites for snakes and lizards and refuge sites for frogs.
Standing dead trees, especially those with hollows, are vital to healthy ecosystems, providing perching roosts and often the only suitable places for birds and animals like possums and gliders to nest.
Adding insult to injury for wildlife, firewood collection can actually increase the damage caused by bushfire, by creating concentrations of small fuel while removing the larger logs which would act as shelter in a bushfire.
So, before you get out that chainsaw, check that your planned outing is legal, and share a thought for those others also relying on the wood!