With winter looming on the horizon, those valley residents with wood-burning stoves or fireplaces in their homes are busy gathering up enough logs to keep cozy while the snow flies, but the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) is reminding people heading out into the backcountry that they need permits to collect firewood.

“Cutting down trees on Crown land without an appropriate permit, or selling any such firewood, is an ongoing concern in B.C. This activity is illegal and could result in a violation ticket or fine. It also could create safety hazards for recreationalists and other forest users, and negatively affect ecosystems, including fish and wildlife habitats,” FLRNO public affairs officer Greig Bethel told The Echo.

Firewood collection permits are free and allow B.C. residents to collect and transport firewood from eligible Crown lands for personal use.

Those collecting firewood on Crown land must print out, sign and carry their Free Use Firewood Cutting Permit with them when they are out collecting firewood.

Although FLRNO didn’t immediately have statistics specific to just the Upper Columbia Valley, Bethel did tell The Echo that for the entire Kootenay-Boundary region, the ministry issued 648 firewood permits during the past fiscal year (between April 1st , 2014 and March 31st, 2015).

Valley residents looking to get a firewood permit can do so at the local Rocky Mountain Forest District office in Cranbrook; at the Service BC office in Invermere (located at 625 4th Street or call 250-342-4260); or online at www.for.gov.bc.ca/drm/forms/firewood.htm.

The maximum amount of firewood that can be collected is 25 cubic metres (seven cords); only dead trees can be cut; and the wood must be cut into stove lengths not exceeding 1.2 metres (or 0.6 metres in the case of cedar) before being transported.

A press release from the ministry also mentions that the public can do its part to stop illegal harvesting by purchasing firewood only from legitimate producers who sell wood obtained either on private land or through authorized Crown land harvesting  tenures. Commercial firewood producers should have a “Forestry Licence to Cut” document signed by FLNRO.

Visit www.gov.bc.ca/firewoodpermits to learn more.