Can You Collect Firewood From the Side of the Road?

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The question of whether or not it is legal to collect firewood from the side of the road has been debated for centuries. It seems that there are as many answers to this question as there are people who ask it, with some saying yes and others saying no. Let’s find out if you can collect firewood from the side of the road.

Collecting firewood from the side of the road is illegal, but many people still do it. Some states have opted to place specific laws against gathering wood in certain areas such as forest service land and private property because this can be harmful for both plants and animals living there. The act of collecting these types of materials often causes erosion or damage to trees that could eventually lead them dying off completely.

However, It really largely depends on your location. In many states, collecting firewood from public property may be illegal. However, in other states, it is completely legal to collect wood that has been left sitting out beside of a public road as long as you ask the landowner if you can take it or not.

Is It Legal to Collect Firewood From the Side of the Road?

Though it may seem like a harmless activity, firewood scavengers are breaking the law in many states.
The act of collecting wood from public roads and private property without permission is illegal on both sides of the equation. This means that not only do you need to get consent before taking someone’s tree down, but also if they come across your materials while searching for their own fuel source then be prepared to face consequences no matter who owns what piece or where said material was found.

According to the National Forest Service, they need permission from the landowner before you can collect firewood from their property. Private property owners may allow it as well or they could even put up signs to inform people that they cannot collect trash wood in their area. Whether you’re scavenging from the side of a public road or someone’s private property, be sure to get permission before you start collecting.

Where Can You Collect Roadside Firewood?

Gathering firewood is a great way to save money and get an extra source of heat in the winter. You can find it at many different locations, including construction sites, power companies removing trees near power lines, and private landowners with excess or problematic trees.

There are certain areas that are off limits or you will be in for a hassle, including national forests and state parks.

When gathering firewood from the side of a public road, you should always ask first if it is ok to collect from that location.

When construction sites clear land for development, they often pay to have the lumber taken away. If you see them cutting trees, ask them what their plans are with the wood from those fallen giants and if there’s a chance of getting some scraps or logs without having to do anything but pick it up after someone else has cleared off all the branches!

Private landowners have wood that they don’t use for fuel or firewood. If they have trees that are unsalvageable, those logs can be found laying around for taking home and using to heat your house. This is a great way to get free firewood without having to fight the bulky mess of cutting down a tree! You will need to ask permission before you go cutting down the the trees first though because you could get into a lot of trouble if you don’t.

Can You Collect Firewood From a National Forest?

It’s illegal to take wood from national forests, parks and reserves. Even if the tree is dead or diseased you could face fines of $300-$1000 for taking it!

However, in some areas you can get a permit to gather wood in national parks and forests. The process of obtaining these permits are both on a state and federal level. Each state has its own application forms that need to be filled out as well as fees paid for their respective permit. This will allow the person to harvest firewood in that particular area of land.

Can you take fallen trees from the side of the road?

If the trees are on your property or you were given permission from the home owner, then yes. If they are on the highway, then it depends on your state’s laws. Generally speaking, if they are already down and blocking traffic then yes. However, if you take them down and haul them off to your home in order to burn them in a fireplace, you might be breaking a few laws. For example, some states do not allow people to haul wood that has been cut or harvested from public land for personal use. Others might prohibit it for other reasons.

What is the Difference Between Cutting Down a Tree and Collecting Wood From the Side of the Road?

With firewood, you will need to decide whether or not you are cutting down an entire tree or just pulling some logs from a fallen one. When someone is cutting down a tree, they have reached an end point and can be considered harvesting. If you find a tree that is already fallen, then you will be harvesting. If you find a tree that has fallen over but you can see limbs and roots that haven’t yet been completely removed, then it is still considered in the lumbering process.

When you are pulling firewood from the side of the road, and there isn’t an entire tree in front of you, but rather smaller pieces lying around on the ground and some larger ones sitting near it, then it is considered scavenging. You should check with your local laws and find out if these logs are considered your personal property by the law or if you are allowed to take them from the side of the road.

Where Can You Find Firewood for Free?

The best and most obvious location for free firewood is on forest land around your home. But you can also find it in other locations, such as:

On farm land – As crops are harvested, excess limbs are often left behind. They are often considered litter and therefore not a problem if they are picked up. Be sure to get permission from the land owner first.

On old railroad tracks – Sometimes these lines get abandoned and the rails might be in need of attention. If you live in an area that is near such a line, then check with your local community to see if it is safe to pick up the rails for use as firewood.

Around a tree that has fallen on a road – If you find a tree that is partially blocking a highway, then it might be okay to cut it down for firewood if you remove all of the limbs and roots first.

On the side of the road – Some people tend to go down an old road to find firewood that has been collected on the side of the road. If this is your only option, then then you should grab what you can, but be sure to check with your local authorities about your rights.

It is a good idea to find out where it is illegal for you to collect firewood before doing so.


Gathering firewood is a wonderful way to get back in touch with nature and those who came before us. Many people have the misconception that they need to purchase wood each season, when really all you need do is know where it’s located so ask for permission if not your property!


Shanna is the 2nd half of Top Outdoor Survival. Like Forest, she has a passion for guns and knives. They love to go on a survival trip at least once a year. They love to go camping, hiking, and traveling.

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