Using firewood

Firewood theft is increasing on public land, devastating areas of crucial habitat and irreplaceable Aboriginal cultural heritage.

While many Victorians rely on firewood for heating and cooking, whether you purchase it or collect it yourself, it is crucial to source your wood legally and responsibly.

Parks are not only protected to provide habitat for our native species, they offer spaces for a wide range of activities for people to enjoy. Our job as land managers is to ensure these things happen in harmony, so the natural and cultural values of parks are sustained for the future.

Firewood theft threatens our wildlife and the health of our environment.

Our native animals rely on tree hollows, created over centuries in standing trees, and fallen timber like dead logs, branches and stumps that form coarse woody debris. Crevices under logs and hollows in trees provide safe places for mammals, reptiles, birds and insects to live and are the perfect place to protect their young from predators.

To them, people taking firewood is taking their home.

Fallen timber and standing trees, both living and dead, also keep our parks and forests healthy. They provide food resources, protect and improve water quality and availability, prevent soil erosion, store carbon, and recycle nutrients into the ecosystem during various stages of natural decay.

Meet eight native animals that rely on old-growth habitat for survival

Brush-tailed phascogale resting on a decaying log. Photography by Wayne Williams.

Brush-tailed phascogale

Brush-tailed phascogales (Phascogale tapoatafa) – also known as Tuan – are fearless acrobats and listed as vulnerable in Victoria. Tall trees with expansive canopies help them navigate the darkness, reflecting pockets of moonlight as they hunt. Hollows within these old trees offer vital den sites for rest and protection during the day, while fallen logs and branches scattered throughout the forest floor provide phascogales with sturdy surfaces to sharpen their claws, which are essential for climbing and hunting insects.
Major Mitchell's Cockatoo perched atop a branch at Moonlit Sanctuary Victoria. Photography by Museums Victoria.

Major Mitchell's Cockatoo

Finding the perfect hollow is not an easy task for the Major Mitchell's Cockatoo (Lophochroa leadbeateri). Known for their generational commitment to a nesting site, breeding pairs will meticulously inspect hollows, tapping on the wood and listening for the perfect resonance that indicates a sturdy and spacious cavity. Once chosen, the hollow becomes a family legacy, with each generation adding their own touches by using their powerful beaks to make further carvings. Listed as critically endangered in Victoria, they can only do this with the oldest and tallest of trees, as it takes at least 170 years for larger hollows to form.
A Yellow-footed antechinus peers from a decaying trunk in Greater Bendigo Regional Park. Photography by Mal Whitehead.

Yellow-footed antechinus

Unlike many Australians, the yellow-footed antechinus (Antechinus flavipes) is not big fan of the heat. They rely on dense canopy cover to regulate ground temperature, keeping them cool and moist during scorching summer days. A cooler environment allows them to stay active for longer periods, maximizing their foraging time for insects and other prey. Cover from coarse woody debris also provides abundant hiding spots and escape routes from predators like owls and snakes, allowing them to survive and reproduce more successfully.
A powerful owl keeping watch atop a branch in the Grampians National Park. Photography by Museums Victoria.

Powerful owl

Unlike their agile phascogale neighbours, powerful owls (Ninox strenua) wouldn't be top predators of the night without old-growth habitats to support them. Open canopies allow them silent flight for surprise attacks, while the diverse ecosystems found under coarse woody debris grant them with a smorgasbord of prey. From scurrying possums to gliding mammals, where fallen logs and branches are allowed to remain, a steady food supply there is likely to be. As the biggest species of their kind in Australia, ancient trees provide them with luxurious, penthouse-like hollows and thick walls that muffle sound for developing owlets. They are listed as vulnerable in Victoria.
A Fat-tailed Dunnart foraging through coarse woody debris in Murray Sunset National Park. Photography by David Paul, Museums Victoria

Fat-tailed dunnart

One species that relies on wood being left on the ground is the fat-tailed dunnart (Sminthopsis crassicaudata). This little guy is a native marsupial, about the size of a mouse, that makes its home under fallen wood. Though they are small and quick, the fat-tailed dunnart is always at risk of being eaten by feral cats and foxes, and they are listed as vulnerable in Victoria. Having a secure shelter is critical for their survival and without logs on the ground, there aren’t many places for them to safely live and breed.
A lace monitor lounges in the sun in the Warby Ranges. Photography by Parks Victoria.

Lace monitor

Like Goldilocks, lace monitors (Varanus varius) are known to be particularly choosy with their favourite snacks and resting places. This species, listed as endangered in Victoria, meticulously navigates fallen timber, searching for the perfect sun deck to warm their cold-blooded reptilian bodies. They are happiest if their chosen log comes with a personal buffet of insects. Elevated platforms such as tall logs and dead stumps allow them to absorb the sun's warmth, which is an essential process for regulating their body temperature.
A  carpet python slithers along a fallen log. Photography by Museums Victoria.

Carpet python

Hollow-bearing trees, logs, and large rock outcrops are essential for the carpet python (Morelia spilota metcalfei) to survive. These habitats serve as shelter sites, ambush points for prey, and aid in thermoregulation. This species is listed as endangered in Victoria. Females only breed every three to four years, taking their time to gather the resources needed for reproduction, and finding a secure hollow to lay their eggs.
Bush Stone-Curlew walks through Serendip-Sanctuary. Photography by Museums Victoria.

Bush stone-curlew

These masters of disguise are listed as critically endangered in Victoria. They thrive in open plains and woodlands interspersed with scattered trees and fallen logs. While capable of flight, the bush stone-curlew (Burhinus grallarius) relies on its grey, brown and black plumage to evade detection during the day. To better camouflage themselves, they can lie down flat with their long neck and legs outstretched, knobbly knees and beak tucked in, resembling the very branch they may be hiding within.

Aboriginal scarred trees are not exempt from the devastating impacts of illegal firewood theft

Culturally modified trees, or scarred trees, can be found all over Victoria – often along major rivers, around lakes and on flood plains.

Aboriginal people create scars by removing bark from trees in careful and considerate ways for various purposes. They are important storytellers and totems to their Country and cultural heritage.

Bark is removed while a tree is still alive, which means it can heal over time with a regeneration of bark growing over the sides of the scar, creating a rounded shape similar to that of an elongated oval.

As explained by First Peoples – State Relations“They tell us where Aboriginal people used to live, and help us find other types of archaeological sites, such as scatters of stone tools. Scarred trees also provide Aboriginal people today with an important link to their culture and their past”.

Once gone, an important piece of Aboriginal cultural heritage is lost forever.

All Aboriginal places, objects and ancestral remains are protected in Victoria. It is an offence to harm Aboriginal heritage and substantial penalties apply under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006.

If you think you have found a scarred tree or other Aboriginal cultural heritage, contact your relevant Registered Aboriginal Party (if one has been appointed) or First Peoples – State Relations on 1800 762 003.

An Aboriginal scar tree submerged within the Ovens River on Yorta Yorta Country in the Warby-Ovens National Park. Photography by Parks Victoria.

Yorta Yorta Country

Aboriginal people modify trees as part of their cultural traditions. These range from bark-removal to construct water transport, temporary shelters or other cultural objects; to ceremonial and territory markings, and branch manipulation. Non-perishable items created from bark include objects such as shields, canoes, small coolamons to carry food and water, and larger coolamons to carry babies. Small toe holds can also be found in some native trees, allowing them to be used as lookouts or to support hunting.
Image of scar tree on Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Country shows cultural practice is ongoing. Photography by Parks Victoria

Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Country

Aboriginal cultural heritage is the continuing record of Aboriginal societies in Victoria. This rich legacy includes physical evidence of past and present occupation and cultural practices, visible through places and objects like shell middens, rock markings, artefacts, and culturally modified trees. Aboriginal people today continue the practice of bark removal, meaning some scars may be younger.

Sourcing firewood in Victoria

  • Collecting firewood

    It is illegal to cut down and remove trees from Parks Victoria land without authorisation.

    Victorians can legally collect free firewood for personal use from designated collection areas in state forests during the autumn and spring firewood collection seasons. Rules apply around where, when, what and how much wood can be collected.

    These areas are managed by Forest Fire Management Victoria and firewood collection is regulated by the Conservation Regulator. Visit the Forest Fire Management Victoria website for more information.

    If you’re visiting a state park and plan to have a campfire, please bring your own firewood with you. You are only allowed to collect dead wood from the ground to use for campfires in some parks – make sure you check the local rules before you travel or you could face a fine.

    Where allowed, use dead wood sparingly by keeping your campfire to one square metre and only lit when it is required for warmth or cooking. Better still, use alternatives like a lightweight stove.

  • Buying firewood

    Firewood is commonly sold on social media, at roadside stalls, and through word-of-mouth. While these can be convenient options, it can be difficult to verify where the wood comes from.

    Unfortunately, some firewood on the market is illegally sourced and there are sellers seeking to take advantage of unsuspecting buyers. If you’re purchasing firewood, please think before you buy to avoid inadvertently supporting illegal habitat destruction.

    Visit the Conservation Regulator’s website for more information and tips when buying firewood.

  • Consequences of firewood theft

    Many of the illegally felled trees we find during patrols are more than 100-years-old, which means they won’t be replaced in our lifetime, or even the next generations'. These large, dead-standing-trees are disappearing unlawfully from the landscape, and we are committed to finding and penalising the offenders.

    Parks Victoria works in partnership with the Conservation Regulator and Forest Fire Management Victoria to patrol parks, forests and reserves, targeting illegal firewood activity and habitat destruction.

    Authorised Officers can issue infringement notices to those caught breaking the rules and serious offences will be taken to court. They can also seize any items involved in personal or commercial firewood theft, including equipment such as chainsaws, trailers, and vehicles.

    Parks Victoria encourages the community to assist by reporting any suspected illegal firewood collection on 13 1963 if it safe to do so.

Enforcement and conservation news

Recent example of illegal firewood theft by the Murray River in Gunbower National Park

From giants to ashes: the centuries old trees disappearing from Victoria's parks

Victorians cherish the crackling comfort of a wood fire – both at home as the days grow colder and under the starry skies of a remote campsite. But how many stop to think about the origins of the firewood they burn?
Wattle in Warrandyte State Park

Finding gold in the Box-Ironbark forests: protecting an iconic Victorian landscape

Victoria’s Box-Ironbark forests have one of the most diverse woodlands in Australia, but they have suffered since Victorias "Gold rush" era. These areas are slowly recovering, but illegal firewood collection is impacting this recovery.

Caring for River red gum Country: protecting an Australian icon

River red gums act as the base of entire food webs in some areas of Victoria, especially in the northwest. Woody debris underneath their canopy contribute to their status as a biodiversity hotspot, but the amount of this debris has sharply declined in the last 200 years.
Seizure of illegally cut red stringybark timber as part of Operation Centaur investigation into illegal firewood theft

Kyneton pair pay the price for illegal firewood business

Two Kyneton residents who stole firewood from the Metcalfe State Forest for profit have been ordered to pay a combined amount of $3000 and forfeit the tools and machinery used in their offending, after being found guilty of six charges each at Kyneton Magistrates’ Court.
Parks Victoria Authroised Officers investigate a case of illegal firewood theft

Firewood theft costs Kyneton man $3000

A 39-year-old Kyneton man has been convicted and fined $3000 after pleading guilty to two charges related to illegal firewood cutting from public land at Bendigo Magistrates’ Court.
Illegal activity damages sensitive landscapes in Gunbower National Park

Illegal off-road joy rides and firewood theft devastate flood-impacted Murray River landscape

As part of Operation Gunbower, Authorised Officers have recorded more than 70 observations of illegal activity in Gunbower National Park, including an estimated 200 river red gums illegally cut down over winter.
By using our site you accept that we use and share cookies and similar technologies with certain approved third parties. These tools enable us to improve your website experience and to provide content and ads tailored to your interests. By continuing to use our site you consent to this. Please see our Privacy Policy for more information.