ACADIA NATIONAL PARK — An Otter Creek man who admits cutting up a fallen dead tree along Grover Avenue here for firewood was summonsed by rangers on Feb. 27 on a resource protection violation.
Steven Smith, 70, was charged after rangers spotted him cutting up a tree within the park boundary which runs down the edge of the town road. The tree had blown over in a wind storm and had been resting on the ground about four feet from the edge of the pavement for more than a year, Smith claimed. Smith said the rangers he dealt with were cordial, but that he was ordered to unload the wood from his vehicle and was given an appearance ticket for federal court.
Many people incorrectly believe park visitors are allowed to collect any wood that is dead and down. Individual parks can specify that wood collected in those jurisdictions can be used only at authorized camping or picnic areas where fires are allowed.
That rule came as a surprise, Smith said. He explained that for years, he and other local residents have picked up wood from along the roads in the park after storm cleanups and construction work and taken it home with no problems.
“Using or possessing wood gathered from within the park area” is prohibited, according to Title 36 federal resource protection regulations. In those same regulations, park superintendents are allowed to permit collection of wood in specific areas, providing it is only used within the park.
In some parks, primarily out west, area residents can obtain permits to harvest firewood during specified times of the year.
According to Acadia Ranger Darren Belskis, the local “Superintendent’s Compendium,” published in association with the basic regulations, allows visitors to Acadia to collect dead and down wood for use in the campgrounds at Blackwoods in Otter Creek and Seawall in Manset. Ironically, collection of any firewood within the confines of a campground itself is banned, primarily to protect live trees from being cut and stripped by uninformed visitors.
The use of a chainsaw to gather wood anywhere in the park also is a federal offense.
And in the last decade, many parks have banned the importation of non-local firewood to help stem the spread of invasive pests, such as the emerald ash borer. Some parks require any firewood sold for use in campgrounds to be heat treated to kill any pests.
In summer in Otter Creek, several residents do a brisk business selling bundles of firewood to Blackwoods campers.
On Tuesday, Smith said he planned to ask for a hearing before a federal magistrate in Bangor. “I don’t think they have the authority to do what they did,” Smith said.
Conviction of illegally removing firewood from the park carries a maximum penalty of a fine of $100 and/or no more than six months in jail. Violators also can be assessed court costs.