Though the roads are still either snow-filled or dangerously muddy, you can get ready with a firewood permit for when the roads are passable and you can get to the firewood-gathering areas of the Bitterroot National Forest. Personal use permits for this year go on sale Monday, April 1, at all the Bitterroot National Forest offices from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays. The permits cost $20, which allows you four cords of firewood. A personal use permit allows 12 cords for the year, at $5 per cord. You can gather firewood from downed timber or you can cut "standing dead" trees. However, you need to check with local ranger districts to know of any specific restrictions.

The general restrictions are the same as last year - No wood can be cut or gathered within 150 feet of streams, creeks or waterways. No cutting in designated recreation areas, campgrounds and along Wild and Scenic river Corridors. Keep your slash piles away from roads, ditches, or overhead powerlines. Do not build slash piles on downed logs or stumps and keep them six to 10 feet in diameter. When you head out later this spring, take along a fire extinquisher, a spark arrester on your chainsaw, a rake to get debris off the roadway and a shovel. The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest is also making permits available.

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