Tree Cutting Laws in Montana

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Firewood can be cut on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and National Forest lands in Montana, provided you have a Personal Use Firewood Permit. These permits are available at all BLM and Forest Service offices. Special authorization must be made if you are gathering wood for a third party (a person not listed on the permit).

Permit and Fees

  • A cord of wood is tightly stacked and measures 8 feet long, by four feet wide and four feet high. If planning on hauling wood longer than six feet, it must be approved before cutting. As of 2010, the cost is $5 per cord of wood, with a minimum purchase of $20 (4 cords) and a maximum amount of $60 (12 cords). Permits must be visible on the vehicle’s dashboard, and if using more than one vehicle, it is suggested to keep the vehicles nearby one another. If the permit is lost or stolen, the fee must be repaid before a replacement is issued.

Locations Allowed and Areas to Avoid

  • Your local Forest Service office will tell you which areas are designated specifically to cut firewood. If none are designated, then you are free to cut on any Forest Service land except for private property or areas involved in an active timber sale. Both of these areas should be marked, but it’s wise to check with the local office before setting out to cut.

    To protect the habitat and quality of water and fish, do not gather or pile wood near streams, lakes, ponds, or marshy, wet land. Your wood cutting permit will give recommended distances if working in these areas.

Cutting, Measuring, and Hauling

  • Any dead or downed tree, except for cedar, can be cut for firewood. Always check to be sure the tree is dead before cutting. Larch trees (Tamarack) can look dead in the winter because they lose their needles, but are really alive. Some downed trees are designated for wildlife, so be sure to check for any markings or signs of animals using it as a habitat--including nests, or holes in the trunk.

Safety

  • If using a chainsaw, a shovel and serviceable fire extinguisher must be on-hand. The chainsaw must have an approved spark arrestor, and should be kept away from cigarettes or open flames while fueling the saw. The saw must cool between refueling and the gas should be in a metal safety can that has a spout (use a funnel to avoid ground spills). Do not start the saw by where you refueled it and be sure to wipe off any sawdust or oil from the saw. During fire season a shovel and bucket must be available at all times.

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