Cutting down trees is not all about Christmas trees or building log cabins anymore.
Deforestation is an issue that’s been at the forefront of eco-activism for a long time.
Corporations come under great scrutiny for logging practices and pollution.
The environmental laws are changing now more than ever, and this article will explain everything you need to know for the United States.
The laws are too many with too many variants to cover globally.
Is It Illegal To Cut Down A Tree In The Woods?
Yes, it is illegal to cut down a tree in the woods.
There are laws that can get complicated, and they will affect everyone who has trees on the property they own, not just those who are in the woods.
Since we’re talking about the woods, we’ll cover what you need to know about the laws with tips and what to know for the forested lands in the United States.
Laws can vary from state to state and even from county to county.
In this case, we will cover who you need to check with in order to not break the law.
There are also some restrictions on tree cutting that most people don’t know and wouldn’t know to investigate.
You should have a well-rounded knowledge of how to navigate the legality of chopping down trees in the woods.
What Is Classified As “The Woods”?
When we ask if it’s illegal to cut a tree down in the woods, what do we really mean by “the woods”?
Typically, depending on the landscape around them, people see the woods as any public land where they see no marked or official claim to.
For example, a National Park has a claim, but a tract of seemingly random “woods” on a tract of land on a mountain may be seen as fair game.
It’s typically not, and if you make a mistake and get caught, you could face a $15,000 fine in some places and even years of jail time.
We weren’t kidding when we said the laws were complicated.
The only real information you get online is for Christmas trees and firewood, and yes, there are strict laws that govern where and how you harvest your firewood when hunting for it yourself.
You can actually go to jail or pay that heavy fine if you are caught so much as picking up already fallen, dead or pre-cut wood from the side of the road.
From this, we can say that the only definite answer is yes.
It is illegal to randomly find a tract of land or go into a national, state, or county park, or to even remove a tree from your own swath of land and cut a tree down.
What Types Of Tree Cutting Are Legal?
There are legal types of tree-cutting that are available everywhere in the United States for Christmas trees and firewood for personal use.
This is probably due to the fact that there aren’t many other reasons for the average person to cut a tree down.
Selling and reselling of wood from trees are what is being prevented by the applicable laws and restrictions.
Is It Legal To Cut Down A Christmas Tree?
It is legal if you follow the law and on land where it is permissible.
National forests are the main places where it’s legal to cut down a Christmas tree, and here’s how you do it.
Keep in mind that, though the law is Federal, there may be restrictions that differ from one park to another, and you need to follow the protocol to do it right and keep yourself out of trouble.
How To Cut Down A Christmas Tree In The Woods?
First, you must have a permit issued by the park authorities in the national park of choice.
They will issue you a permit to chop down from one to five trees maximum per family.
This is a common thread throughout each park.
What’s not so common are the guidelines that include species of the pine tree, the size, age, and so on.
You don’t have to be an arborist in order to chop down a Christmas tree.
The park authority will give you a space where groupings of the correct tree that match the specifications reside.
The permit will cost you between $5 and $20.
These rates are subject to change, so be prepared for some variation.
Steps And Laws For Cutting A Christmas Tree Down In The Woods
Since this is the most popular reason to cut down a tree in the woods for personal use, we’ll provide some logical steps to follow for doing so legally.
- The first step is to obtain an official permit from a national forest of your choice. Once the fee is paid, you’ll be provided the instructions as to where, how, and which of the trees can be cut down, along with the number of trees the park allows you to take.
- You must contact the district office in the area the cutting is to be done. From there, you can obtain instructions on accessibility, the times you are allowed to cut trees, and any maps you will need.
- Next, remember that Christmas trees or any wood you are cleared and permitted to take cannot be sold.
- Keep your permit with you while in the forest. If you forget it in your vehicle, you will be prevented from cutting or leaving with a tree until the permit is retrieved. This is for obvious reasons so that people don’t sneak out trees without a permit.
- There are weather and disaster warnings that you may not know about. You don’t want to get caught out during a fire or road closures.
- Since you’ll be deep in the forest, you should carry a GPS and tell someone exactly where you’ll be and when you intend to return. Remember that there are wild animals and other hazards you could potentially come in contact with. Apart from alerting others of your trip, you should ask about how you’re allowed to defend yourself and with what if you should come upon an issue.
- If you’re looking for a Christmas tree, it’s going to be in the dead of winter, so make sure you know the weather forecast and dress accordingly for where you’ll be. Bring water, a small snack, and of course, a first-aid kit because you could injure yourself, not only by chopping but even just while hiking there if you aren’t familiar with the terrain.
- If you are permitted to get your firewood at the same time, be sure to contact the district offices to find out the rules on collecting or cutting fallen or dead trees. What may seem like free wood that isn’t of good use may well be an animal habitat.
- The rangers can answer questions as to why you may need to stay away from streams, rivers, or any wetlands.
- Make sure you can read a map and use a compass. It’s no joke if you’re lost. Once night falls in the winter, if you aren’t properly provisioned and not a seasoned forest trekker, you can be injured or worse with no one able to find you for days.
- Be very conscious of any trees that are dead or weakened in any way. Falling heavy branches and whole trees are common, and you don’t want to be in the way. You also don’t want to take home a damaged tree.
- Your tree of choice must be 200 feet from the roadway. This is for obvious safety reasons for passersby and road traffic.
- It’s not suggested that you look at the top of the tree and cut it just for that especially if it’s tall. Make sure the tree is from an area that is abundant with overstocked trees and cut only one tree per tag. Tie it down with rope and tarp that you should have brought with you and place the corresponding tag on the tree.
- Lastly, whether you are taking a Christmas tree or firewood, never take mushrooms or any other greenery home with you as this is illegal for good reason. We are leaving the forest for the inhabitants and our next generations.
Where Can I Find Free Firewood?
Firewood is the second most popular reason to harvest or cut down a tree in the woods.
Christmas trees and firewood are considered to be harvested for personal use.
This means you can’t go through the woods and harvest firewood, even at the side of the road in your town, no matter how remote it is or whether or not you consider it the “woods”.
You also can’t sell it to neighbors, friends, family, or start a small business providing firewood in this way.
We’re driving this home so hard because people will attempt to use their idea of what they deem should be legal and get themselves caught up in unnecessary mayhem.
You can find firewood free and legally in the ways listed below.
There is one thing we will add for your own personal safety because this happens more than you think.
You will see places to get firewood like construction sites and neighbors, etc.
If there is any amount of clear coating, paint, or any chemical, it’s a hazard to burn it in your home, both for fire and for toxic fumes that will cause severe illness and possibly death.
- Ask businesses if they have any untreated pallets to get rid of and specify what you want it for, so you get the right and safe thing.
- Check dumpsters.
- Ask the foreman at a construction site. They will certainly know if it’s treated while the workers may or may not.
- Go carefully on Craigslist or freecycle.
- If someone has dumped wood that they had for personal use, then the dumped wood is legal to harvest.
- If your neighbors are cutting down trees legally, you may get it from them.
- Local community bulletin boards and houses of worship are other good sources of information about where you can get it.
Do I Need A Permit To Harvest Firewood, And How Much Is It?
You need a permit to legally harvest firewood if you don’t want to jump through the hoops listed in this article.
You can obtain a firewood harvesting permit at the US Department of Agriculture, better known as the USDA, and Forest Ranger District Offices.
If you live in South Central Idaho, there are private permit vendors there.
Just make sure they’re legitimate.
Calling the aforementioned agencies should provide you with their recommendations.
This is great if you don’t live close to those departments.
The cost is $6.25 per cord.
A cord is just a limited amount.
This information is accurate at the date of this writing, but it is subject to change without notice, plus it will vary from state to state and county to county.
Cutting down a tree in the woods is illegal unless you have a permit.
The permit is $6.25 per cord at the time of this writing.
You may only harvest Christmas trees and firewood, both for personal use only.
Any business ventures must be permitted legally and only in some states.
Contact the Department of Forestry and the USDA for more information before you make any moves.
The bottom line is that cutting down a tree in the woods can be easy or not.
Reading this article did more than just answer the question.
It took you into the world of bureaucracy and red tape when all you want to do is warm your home or get a Christmas tree.
If you had anything else in mind, hopefully, you were saved by knowing the laws and rules of the land and how to avoid an issue that is easily prevented.