The chill in the air and a dusting of snow makes all of us in Santa Fe start dreaming of that first fire of the season. And then reality hits…the wood pile is empty. Time to prepare to cut and gather firewood. But before you go, we have some advice on the where to go, which trees to select, and how much wood to harvest. Knowing this information can help you harvest inexpensive fuel while improving the health of the forest.
1. Cut Where It Is Allowed - Unless you are cutting on your own property, you need permission from the landowner or a permit to cut in New Mexico BLM land.
2. Cut Close To Home - If you must drive more than 75 miles to reach the woodlot, your transportation costs may make the firewood more expensive than other fuels.
3. Avoid Fragile Sites - In some locations, living trees are more valuable than the wood that could be obtained by felling them. For example, windbreak, stream-bank, and hillside forests are essential to soil and water conservation. Consult your state forester before you thin trees in such areas.
4. Cut in Spring - Wood must be seasoned before it will burn properly. It seasons most quickly during the hot, dry days of summer, and only after it has been cut from the stump. The wood that you plan to use in late fall should therefore be cut no later than the previous spring.
5. Cut Diseased Trees - To preserve the vigor of healthy trees, it is desirable to remove trees that have contagious diseases or serious insect infestations.
6. Cut Damaged Trees - Trees that have poor stems or small crowns and those that have been damaged by lightning, past logging practices, wind, insects, or grazing should be salvaged for fire wood. Such trees will not usually become more attractive with age, nor will they increase in value for timber.
7. Thin and Prune - Thinning is the cutting of selected trees to reduce overall tree density. Thinning improves the growth conditions for the remaining trees and should be considered when the the trees are 15 to 25 years old. Pruning is the removal of the lower branches so that the tree will produce clear, high-grade lumber or veneer logs. Pruning should start when the trees are 4 inches in diameter.
8. Protect the Terrain – Leave your vehicle on established roads & carry wood to your vehicle. Tires ruts can last for years and lead to harmful soil erosion.
9. Take Safety Precautions – Hand & power saws are sharp; wear proper clothing and use ear and eye protection.