Where’d You Get that Wood? How to Source Legally Harvested Firewood
by Zilla Gordon
Some might say you’re not really Tasmanian until you’ve seen a ute stockpiled with illegally caught firewood.
And while we might laugh over the thought of this rather common sight, the illegal collecting of firewood, known as wood-hooking, can result in a hefty fine. That means sourcing sustainable, legally harvested wood to keep us warm through our cold winter is no joke. But what makes your firewood sustainable, where does it come from, and how can you tell if your wood is the real deal?
Micheal Reid is in the process of setting up his sustainable firewood business, RAM Firewood Merchants, and said cost was a big factor for consumers. “We charge more because we pay more for it,” he said. “People have told us they want to buy sustainable wood, but we have to charge more to recover the cost.”
But buying from a larger supplier, like Micheal, would reduce the cost of the wood overall. “Because of the large volume we buy, it’s lower cost,” he said. While old mate on the corner might be selling for less, Micheal said it was up to the consumer to decide if they’d pay the price.
Spot the difference
When it comes to wood, looks count. The telltale sign of plantation timber is processing marks on the log. While Micheal said it “wasn’t definitive”, it means the wood’s come from a plantation or logging co-op. “And if something seems too good to be true, it probably is,” Micheal said.
The Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service agreed, saying householders often unknowingly contribute to the problem by purchasing firewood that has been illegally sourced.
Meanwhile, Micheal said to be wary of Gumtree listings where the wood can’t be traced. “We’ve chosen to take the hard route where there’s an obligation to have complete traceability,” he said. “We have meticulous record-keeping because we’ve got to be able to prove where the wood comes from.”
Why it matters?
Tasmania Police said the illegal cutting of wood not only impacts on parks and reserves, but the risks posed by the manner in which debris is left across tracks and in the forest canopy is dangerous. This debris has the potential to interfere with access by others, including firefighting resources.
While dead trees make for good firewood, some of our native animals rely on hollows in trees for shelter or to breed, said environmental conservation organisation NRM South. These hollows can often be more than 150 years old. On the forest’s floor, fallen wood is the perfect home for mosses, lichen, fungi and liverworts. And if this wood is taken to heat your home, it will impact Tasmania’s fragile ecosystem.
The Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service said their officers work with the police to limit illegal firewood harvesting in parks and reserves. While it might seem tempting to just go to the source, the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service said the maximum penalty for cutting down trees on reserved land is 500 penalty units (currently $86,000) and or two years’ imprisonment, while possessing or using a chainsaw on a reserve could attract a fine of up to 20 penalty units (currently $3,440).
Fetch your firewood
So can you collect your own firewood? Yes and no. You’ll need to have permission from the landowner or land manager to collect wood from public land. If you’re collecting wood from private land, you must also have permission from the landowner.
There are certain situations where you’ll need an exemption form, like providing it’s not vulnerable land, you’re taking less than one hectare or less than 100 tonnes over a 12-month period.
Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service said NRM South’s website includes information about how people can ensure their firewood meets the requirements. Tasmania Police also said there are processes involved in the legal gathering of firewood and permits are available from Sustainable Timbers Tasmania (STT) for the sole purpose of gathering firewood for personal use only, and that the sale of firewood obtained under STT permits is not authorised.
Firewood is the main source of home heating, according to NRM South. More than 50 per cent of homes use wood fires as the primary source of heating and Tasmania is the greatest consumer, per person, of firewood in Australia.