Woodcutters survey Wallowa County use of firewood

November 28, 2012 02:02 pm

Firewood has long been the traditional home heating source in Wallowa County. This fall, the Wallowa County Woodcutters determined how dependent people are on this natural resource.

The Woodcutters, a group which organized two years ago, sent out 4,105 surveys this fall and received a 27 percent response. Committee member Ed Sparks gave a run-down of what they found.

Though the results were not startling, they do provide statistics on how its residents heat their homes. According to the survey, 79 percent of households burn wood for heat and 22 percent of that number use wood exclusively for an estimated 4,774 cords burned each year.

Sparks said 90 percent of those surveyed said they consider firewood a necessity; 73 percent said they cut their own wood; 42 percent either cut or buy wood.

The informal group of woodcutters, many of whom are commercial cutters, began meeting two years ago gathering information to present to the commission. Last year, a five-member advisory committee was appointed to keep the commission apprised of the county’s wood-cutting industry.

Mike Hayward, Wallowa County Board of Commissioners chairman, said the commission is open to appointing one of the Woodcutters’ committee members to its Natural Resource Advisory Committee, which is a mix of agency representatives, ranchers, farmers and timber industry workers.

“It is valid and important to have the woodcutters represented,” said Hayward. “The wood cutting issue has become elevated and is going to continue.”

The wood cutting season opens May 1 and runs through Nov. 30. However, in extreme fire danger, bans on running chainsaws in the national forest can prohibit wood gathering. 

Getting into the woods as early as May can be difficult as well, due to snow and muddy roads.

Personal wood cutting permits are available at the Forest Service’s Wallowa Mountains office in Joseph for $5 and come in packs of four while commercial permits are $10 and are purchased 10 at a time. As of Aug. 23, 2,130 personal use permits and 192 commercial permits were sold, according to Adriene Holcomb, Wallowa Valley District silviculturist.