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Claiming Free Firewood, A Right Dating Back To The Middle Ages


Originating from the Middle Ages, affouage is the only way to retrieve firewood for free from nature. Organized by the National Forestry Office, affouage is a regulated right that is not practiced anywhere and in any way. Here’s how to claim free firewood.


What is affouage and how to assert this right?

Dating back to the 13th century, affouage is a right governed by articles L 145.1 of the Forest Code. It allows the Municipal Council of each locality to reserve a part of the wood from its communal forests to give free access to the inhabitants of the municipality.


Note, however, that affouage is an option and not an obligation.

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This right is mainly practiced by municipalities that have a large proportion of communal forests.

Affouage does not apply to private forests.

accessible under certain conditions

To benefit from it and thus access free firewood, you must:

  • have made yourself known to your municipality;
  • have been a resident in the municipality for at least 6 months;
  • have the necessary equipment for wood cutting;
  • be equipped with all the required safety equipment;
  • have paid the affouage tax (if applicable in your municipality);
  • commit to participating in forest maintenance.

Residents who meet all these conditions are allocated a forest plot by drawing lots.

One to two shares of affouage can be allocated to each beneficiary according to their uses and needs.

you expose yourself to heavy penalties

  • unmarked wood cutting;
  • mutilation, fires, and other damages;
  • crossing watercourses;
  • circulating outside reserved paths.

Finally, the harvested firewood must be used for your own domestic needs and cannot be sold under any circumstances.

Am I allowed to collect wood in the forest outside of affouage?

Outside of the right of affouage, it is strictly forbidden to collect wood in the forest, whether it is private or public.

The French forest cover consists of 75% private forests governed by article 547 of the Civil Code. Access to these forests is prohibited, as is the collection of wood.


Also, whether we are talking about dead wood fallen on the ground or cut and stacked wood, the latter belongs exclusively to the owner of the plot.

Collecting wood in a private forest amounts to theft, an offense under the Penal Code that exposes you to a sentence of 3 years imprisonment and a fine of €45,000 according to article 311-2 of the Penal Code.

If walks are allowed in public forests, collecting wood is also prohibited there. This prohibition aims to preserve forest biodiversity.

  • serves as shelter for insects and small animals;
  • enriches the soil as it decomposes;
  • promotes the development of plants and organisms.

Note: some specialized associations are sometimes authorized by the National Forestry Office to cut wood in public forests.

However, even with the necessary authorizations, cutting wood with a diameter of less than 20 cm exposes offenders to a fine of €1,500.

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