Wednesday, January 4, 2023

USDA funding flows to firewood banks

There is a wood bank in the historic
Village of Walpi in Arizona that works
to maintain their  traditional 
architecture and customs. 
Updated Feb. 1: The Alliance for Green Heat has received firewood grant applications for over $538,000 and has disbursed nearly $300,000 to twenty-two firewood banks. With a total of $590,000, AGH expects to receive the final 4-6 banks this week. With The funding comes from the US Forest Service which part of the US Department of Agriculture and represents the first of five years of funding for firewood banks.

The largest firewood banks receiving funding are run by tribes in New Mexico and Arizona where a large percentage of homes heat with wood.  About 40% of applications received to date are from tribes, some of which process over 1,000 cords of wood and supply more than 500 homes each winter with fuel.  Overall, the 43 firewood banks who have applied so far process an average of 212 cords per year and provide an average of 1.3 cords per household. 

Volunteers at Project Fire in
North Carolina load wood for delivery.



Firewood banks are like food banks and are probably in all US states with the exception of Hawaii. Researchers had estimated there were up to 100 firewood banks across the country, but there are now believed to be at least double that number.


The firewood banks are using the funding mainly to purchase chain saws, splitters, trailers, sheds, moisture meters  and safety equipment. Most firewood banks already have liability insurance and all are required by AGH to have staff and volunteers sign liability waivers.    AGH also requires recipients to regularly test the moisture content of their wood and strive to only provide seasoned wood (20% moisture content or lower) during the heating season.

Firewood, sometimes called the “people’s fuel,” because it is often free and abundant, is seeing a resurgence this year as fossil fuel prices climb.  Most of the firewood banks use wood that was already dead or down and much of it is donated by tree services, towns or local people. Still, most wood that falls across roads or on people’s lawns is thrown away.  According to the EPA, in 2018, landfills received 12.2 million tons of wood, 8.3% of all municipal waste that was landfilled. 

For more information or to apply, go to https://www.firewoodbanks.org.