Christmas Eve may still be 10 weeks away, but it’s time to start making plans if you want to cut your own Christmas tree in a U.S. forest this year.
“Every tree that is found, cut, and carried home creates a new story,” Forest Service Chief Randy Moore said in a statement. “These stories become the memories and traditions we carry on for generations and further connect families with their local forests.”
To help families create memorable experiences and holiday traditions, the Forest Service has already begun selling permits to cut your own Christmas tree in some U.S. forests. What’s more, the practice even increases the forest’s overall health.
A Healthy Practice
Before you start to think cutting a tree down will lead to the destruction of parts of national forests, keep in mind that harvesting Christmas trees is actually good for the forests and plays a role in sound forest management. That’s because the permit system helps to thin densely populated stands of small-diameter trees.
Here’s how it works. First, local forest health experts identify forest areas that will benefit from thinning trees that tend to be the perfect size for Christmas trees. When people purchase Christmas tree permits and remove trees from these areas, it helps other trees grow larger as well as opens areas that provide forage for wildlife.
What To Do
The Forest Service began selling Christmas tree permits through the Recreation.gov website last year, which makes it convenient for visitors to find and purchase permits. The Forest Service is continuing the practice this year.
“We heard from many visitors that they liked the new online permit system, and we also heard from local forests that permit sales were incredibly successful,” DeLappe said.
Participating national forests, which number over 70, include Shoshone, Bighorn, Olympic, and Shawnee.
The Forest Service began selling permits for some forests on October 14. It’s important to note that 90 percent of the national forests which offered Christmas tree permits last year made them available through Recreation.gov. This year, more national forests will be offering permits online, increasing your chances of finding a forest offering permits online that is close to your home.
How To Purchase Permits
Once you decide to cut your own Christmas tree, the next step is to figure out where you can legally cut your own tree. Finding that place may not prove to be as difficult as you may think.
You’ll start by visiting the Recreation.gov website.
On the site, you’ll use a search tool to find the participating forest that works best for you. It’s important to note that each forest will have specific guidelines, cutting area maps, and season dates for cutting a holiday tree.
Then, you’ll purchase your permit online. And, don’t forget to print your permit so you can display it on your vehicle’s dashboard when you go to cut your tree.
A Special Offer For 4th Graders
If one of your kids or grandkids is in fourth grade, the U.S. Department of the Interior has a special offer for them.
All fourth graders, or age equivalent, are eligible to receive what’s called an “Every Kid Outdoors” pass. The pass, which is valid until August 30, 2022, admits kids to more than 2,000 federally managed lands and water sites across the country.
Every Kid Outdoors pass/voucher holders are also eligible for a free Christmas tree permit at their local national forest. Details on using the pass to get a free Christmas tree permit can be found here.
Know Before You Go
Once you have your Christmas tree permit and arrive at the forest to cut your tree, there are several guidelines you’ll need to follow. For example, the tree you choose must be at least 200 feet from main roads, recreation sites, and campgrounds.
You’ll also need to be sure to select a tree that has a trunk that is 6 inches or less in diameter and be sure to cut the tree no higher than 6 inches above ground level. And, of course, never cut a tall tree so you can use its top section as your Christmas tree.
You can find more tips and guidance from the Forest Service about cutting your own Christmas tree here.
While you’re thinking about being outdoors and cutting your own Christmas tree, be sure to also read all of our Outdoor Activities coverage.