Free firewood permits out for bosque areas

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Middle Rio Grande Conservancy permits are still available for firewood gathering along the west side of the Rio Grande from Highway 380 north to the San Acacia dam, according to New Mexico State Forestry Department forester Nick Smokovitch.

The free permits are good for gathering firewood for personal use only. Chain saws and hand saws are permitted, he said, but not heavy equipment, such as bulldozers.

Dead and downed plant material (including cottonwood) and standing salt cedars can be gathered between the high levy road to the river on the west side only, said Jack Dickey, NMSF fire management officer.

The free permits can be picked up from now until April at the NMSF office on Highway 60 behind the Ark of Socorro Veterinary Clinic Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The office closes for lunch from noon till 1 p.m.

Firewood gathering along the river will close on April 15, unless dry weather conditions increase the risk of a wildfire, Boykin said.

The public harvesting of downed trees and branches and live salt cedars has reduced the risk of catastrophic fires at no cost to the public, said district forester Doug Boykin.

“We’ve gotten as much fuel reduction for free as we have paid to have done,” he said.

According to Boykin, people have told him that unseasoned salt cedar burns well, especially on a bed of coals in an airtight woodstove.