Free firewood, Christmas trees on offer in Latvia's state forests

Latvia's State Forests (LVM), a state-owned company that plays a major role in the national economy, is offering residents the opportunity to collect firewood free of charge, provided they have received permission to do so for personal use only, according to Latvian Radio on December 9.

The permission is necessary to make sure that the firewood is collected only where allowed, leaving dead wood where it is necessary for promoting biodiversity. There has been particular interest in this program in southern Latgale. There are two Latvia's State Forests client service centers in Latgle - in the Rēzekne region and in Līvāni.

“We manage around 188 thousand hectares of forest in our region, it's a large territory and we operate in 14 regions,” said Southern Latgale Region Forestry Manager Aldonis Utināns.

In a year around 1500–1800 hectares are cut for forest renewal, which is where residents can go with their own axes to collect firewood. Oskars Mežnieks does this regularly, and says it's a good way for residents to gather firewood for the winter. He does this in private forests after forestry operations have been completed and he has come to an agreement with the manager.

To receive permission to collect leftover wood from state forests you have to get in touch with the forest manager, according to Utināns.

“When you go to the Latvia's State Forests website there's a map showing where there is work in progress, and the forester's contacts. They can further explain what is allowed and what isn't,” said Utināns.

This part of the website is currently available only in Latvian.

Those who choose to legally collect the free firewood need to take care of their own safety, and of those around them. If you choose to use an axe or regular saw there are no specific requirements, but if you want to use a chainsaw you need to show that you are proficient.

It should also be stressed that the initiaitve is just for personal use, not commercial gain, and that no felling of live trees is included.

LVM is also providing people in Latvia with the opportunity to go to the forests they manage and bring home their own Christmas tree

A fir-tree may be felled free of charge only in the forests managed by LVM. LVM forest boundaries may be identified by the yellow signs on the roadside; the entire boundary is marked with yellow stripes on tree trunks. The LVM GEO Mobile mobile app and map at www.mammadabakarte.lv can help you navigate in the forest, with the areas managed by LVM marked in dark green.

"Fir-trees that may be cut for Christmas grow along roads and around ditches, on firebreaks, under power lines or beneath large trees in mature forests, but not in young stands or young mixed forests, since there trees have been specially planted and tended to grow a future forest," says LVM.

It is forbidden to cut trees in public nature parks and in specially protected nature territories marked with an oak-tree image on a green background. Also, be careful not to accidentally get into forests of private owners. LVM also produces a special booklet on the criteria for selecting and collecting a Christmas tree. 

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