BOISE -- If you have been waiting all winter to be able to cut wood for your woodstove or campfire, you're in luck.

Firewood permits for the Payette and Boise National Forests went on sale Monday, May 15. The permits cost $12.50 per cord, with a two-cord minimum and a ten-cord maximum per household.

A cord of wood is four feet high by four feet wide and eight foot long, or about twice as much as fits in the bed of a half-ton pickup without overloading it.

Fuelwood permits can be used in their corresponding national forests, but are not valid for cutting down trees on state land, BLM land or private land. Permit holders are encouraged to cut firewood early after the snow melts, because fire restrictions may halt cutting later into the summer.

However, early-season cutters are asked to avoid muddy roads in order to minimize damage to those areas. Permit-holders are not allowed to cut trees next to creeks and rivers.

Cutting firewood within a closure area also is prohibited. Closure information is available on the "Alerts and Notices" page of forest websites.

Boise National Forest Fuelwood Coordinator Audrey Karpe urged woodcutters to check ahead of time to make sure they are in an area approved for gathering firewood.

"Please check this year's fuelwood brochure and current Motor Vehicle Use Maps to make sure you are cutting in an area open to fuelwood gathering. Also, pay special attention to closed areas and roads with restoration activities," Karpe said in a press release."Remember all Forests have regulations in place regarding not cutting neither dead nor living whitebark pine trees which are declining and are of critical importance to several wildlife species."

The Minidoka and Fairfield Ranger Districts in the Sawtooth National Forest also began selling permits Monday, but permit availabilty for the Ketchum Ranger District and Sawtooth National Recreation Area has been pushed back to June 15 due to the abnormal snowpack levels.

The Payette National Forest has four free use areas - Hazard Lake, Kinney Point, Steamboat Summit/Warren Summit and Big Creek - that require free use permits. Wood collected in a free use area counts toward the ten-cord maximum, officials say.

Free use permits, along with the location information and requirements, can be obtained at the associated Payette Ranger District office.

Permits are available at USDA Forest Service Ranger District offices, the Interagency Visitor Information Center at 1387 South Vinnell Way in Boise and some private vendors in southwest Idaho.