A number of years ago my wife and I started harvesting firewood directly from the forests surrounding the campgrounds we stayed in. Now, there are rules in place and you must be a certain distance away from campgrounds to do it, but many Albertans have begun to harvest their own firewood.Not only are they saving themselves some money, but they’re also helping to make our forests healthier but clearing out the dead trees that fuel forest fires.
Ever since I can remember, sitting with friends and family around a campfire, roasting marshmallows, telling stories that have been told many times, or just staring at the glowing embers has been universally enjoyed as a part of the camping experience. Rare it is these days to wander the campground and pass a campsite that doesn’t have a fire blazing.
Unlike years ago, campfires these days don’t come cheap. With the belt tightening of the 90’s and the contracting out the campground maintenance in our Provincial Parks, firewood is generally no longer included in the camping fees. That certainly makes sense during these cost cutting, user pay, balance the books kind of days, but that means it hits the users in the pocketbook and it doesn’t take long for the firewood fees to far exceed the camping fees.
Harvesting Firewood Yourself
Well, there is hope and it’s no secret. Many folks in Alberta have for years been harvesting firewood on provincial land and if you haven’t done it yourself, it’s probably much easier than you think.
Alberta Environment’s Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) issues tree cutting permits to Alberta residents, 18 years of age and older, who are “in good standing with the Crown”. These permits allow the holders to harvest dead windblown or dead standing trees for use as firewood, or teepee poles or fence rails, etc. Of course, people for years have been getting similar permits to harvest their Christmas trees or to harvest small trees for transplanting purposes.
The tree cutting permits allow for the harvesting of 5 cubic metres of wood. To give you an idea of how much that is, a level eight foot bed of a half ton truck will hold about a metre and a half. So 5 metres is alot of firewood! And at the current fee of $5 plus tax for the permit, that’s dirt cheap firewood, considering that a bag of firewood west of Calgary is $7 each or 3 for $20.
I’m not saying that harvesting firewood is easy work. In fact it was extremely difficult before my wife and I figured out how to work smarter than harder. But with persistence, choosing the right trees and pacing ourselves, in a couple of trips to the forest we can easily collect enough wood for a year’s worth of camping trips as well as those backyard fires that the entire family enjoys when we aren’t camping.
We’ve also simply dropped the trailer in the campground and while my wife sets up the trailer and starts the BBQ I head off to cut a tree or two. Without a word of a lie, in an hour I’m back, fire’s blazing and we’re chowing on our supper.
There’s another advantage to harvesting your own firewood other than cost. We’ve noticed that a common complaint of purchased firewood is that it’s damp. Damp wood means a smoky campfire and a smoky campfire means a smoky campground. We take great care in keeping our dry wood dry and it makes our campfires that much more enjoyable.
If you’re interested in learning more Alberta Environment’s website is full of information including the ability to purchase permits online, a map of the areas where you can harvest trees and a list of frequently asked questions.
Now the fine print! If you choose to head out and harvest your own firewood – BE CAREFUL OUT THERE! Wear proper clothing and footwear, watch out for other people in the area and get trained on how to use a chainsaw. But, equally as important, have fun out there!