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Firewood Banks

Funding for firewood banks is now available. The Alliance for Green Heat is partnering with the USDA to implement a program to provide small grants to existing firewood banks. For more information and to apply to funding, click here.

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There appears to be a growth in volunteer firewood banks in the United States, but there has been little documentation about how many used to exist. Similar to food banks, wood banks provide free firewood to low-income families in rural areas. These are typically grassroots, community-based efforts that have caught the attention of the New York Times and researchers at the University of Maine, who created a community guide to generate awareness and action around wood banks. Firewood banks are typically run by non-profits, churches, tribes, or state or local governments, and virtually always run off of volunteer work. The Alliance for Green Heat has regularly provided coverage of these banks since 2009.

Clarisse Hart with Harvard Forest first determined that there were at least 65 wood banks (p. 26) across the country in 2016. As of 2024, there are 153 known firewood banks in the U.S.. It’s difficult to estimate exactly how many wood banks they are since many are very local, have virtually no Internet presence, and some may operate at so small of a scale that they don’t even consider themselves wood banks. Some examples of wood banks across the country include Cumberland Wood Bank in Maine, the Rocky Mountain Warm Hands Initiative in Colorado, and Diné Bá'ádeit'į́- For The People in Arizona.

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Fueling Support - Wood Banks

Wood banks, which frequently struggle with low volunteer participation and financial difficulties, are now in line to get support from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act), passed in November 2021, thanks to Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), whose state has a high population of households relying on wood heat. The law recognizes the importance of these wood banks to the needs of rural and tribal communities in Section 40803(c)(17), which reads the following: “$8,000,000 shall be made available to the Secretary of Agriculture to provide feedstock to firewood banks; and b) to provide financial assistance for the operation of firewood banks.” Due to this being such a small program with even smaller grants, the US Forest Service is now exploring how to effectively distribute the funds.


These firewood banks can aid in the “equitable transition to a clean-energy economy” that is a keystone of the Biden Administration. Wood banks help address the problem of heat insecurity for many rural and low-income Americans who still rely on wood heat to keep warm, and can aid in the transition from a fossil-fuel economy. Scaling up firewood banks to provide more coverage in rural areas could be more possible with federal funding.


Some other issues facing wood banks is the quantity and quality of wood donated. Properly seasoning wood is imperative to a clean burn, and the moisture content of wood is the indicator of properly seasoned wood. Additionally, wood banks tend to rely on donations, so it can be difficult for them to gauge the amount of wood they will have available, and even more difficult to have enough volunteers or equipment to split and stack the wood.


Wood banks have a lot of potential – not just as a way to stave off the cold, but potentially as a hub that links wood users and energy-insecure homes to other resources, such as the Weatherization Assistance Program and low-income energy assistance program, LIHEAP

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