Saving money sometimes means investing up front. Nowhere is that more true than with cutting your own firewood. Burning seasoned wood is more cost-effective — you burn less seasoned wood to get the same heat. Burning seasoned firewood creates less smoke and reduces human health issues. You also don’t wear your woodcutting tools out as fast and it conserves the resource because you have to cut less timber when you choose to burn seasoned firewood.
Many people ask where they can cut and which trees provide the best firewood. State land has personal use firewood available in the Tanana Valley State Forest. Contact State Forestry at 451-2600 to cut in the state forest and the Division of Lands at 451-2737 to access state lands outside the state forest. Both offices are in Fairbanks. Firewood here yields about the same BTU value by weight. A cord of birch weighs more than a cord of spruce, which weighs more than aspen or a cord of balsam poplar/cottonwood.
In addition to managing designated wood-cutting areas, the state may also permit cutting on other state-owned lands by permission. Determine the location of the wood you want to cut and ask State Forestry or the Division of Lands if you may obtain a permit to cut wood there. Firewood permits cost $10/cord and may be purchased online or at the local offices. All firewood cutting on state land in the Fairbanks area requires purchasing a permit, including cutting live, dead or downed trees.
Good trees to cut are those felled by a windstorm. It is important to describe the exact location of these trees you want to cut and check with State Forestry to determine whether the trees are on state land. Cutting on private land is trespassing and stealing. It is very important to determine whose land you are cutting on.
Cutting wind-thrown timber is an excellent way to utilize downed trees and it is easier then felling live trees. Cleaning up this wood before it rots or becomes infested with insects, including the spruce beetle, is an excellent way to conserve the forest and manage it properly.
Seasoned firewood has 20 percent or less, moisture content. Get seasoned wood by cutting, splitting and stacking it the winter before it is needed. The warm summer air finishes drying it in those covered stacks of split wood. Stack your wood on poles or pallets just off the ground so air can flow through them and cover the stacks on top to keep the rain off.
Follow this method and you will be investing up front to have seasoned dry firewood that will save you money and time in the long run.
Glen Holt is the Eastern Alaska Forester of Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Questions or column requests can be e-mailed to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 907-474-5271.