THE Victorian Government is moving to restrict new firewood collection areas to locals only.
It denies plans to impose the rule are related to last season's alleged poaching by merchants of firewood in central Victorian public forests.
Commercial operators from Melbourne were accused of cleaning out the free collection areas that are supposed to provide country residents with a source of winter warmth.
The permit system for firewood collection was abandoned last September to try to cut red tape.
The firewood collection season opens across the state on March 1.
The Department of Sustainability and Environment has proposed conditions and times for domestic collection in the Barmah National Park until 2015. People may collect wood without a permit from the residue of sawlogs felled before the park's creation in 2010.
The DSE proposed limiting collection from Barmah to residents of the shires of Campaspe and Moira and the City of Greater Shepparton.
People from the Yorta Yorta tribe can also collect the wood.
A DSE spokeswoman said the proposed restriction was to "help manage the limited supply of firewood in this area and in recognition of the importance of domestic firewood to local communities".
At this stage, Barmah National Park is the only place where local restrictions will apply.
The spokeswoman said local restrictions had previously applied to collecting domestic firewood in north central Victoria.
If the DSE's locals-only policy is approved, people collecting firewood in Barmah National Park may be asked to supply names and addresses.
The DSE provides access to more than 50 firewood collection areas in country districts.
From March 1 to June 30, and from September 1 to November 30, people may go into areas listed on the DSE website and take up to two cubic metres of firewood, worth more than $200.
Green groups such as the Victorian National Parks Association say the free system was being rorted and want permits re-introduced.