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Are you looking for a live Christmas tree without going to a tree lot to buy it — and without paying a small fortune for it? It is possible to go out and legally cut down your own Christmas tree, so long as you obtain a permit from the forest service first. And you can even get a great deal in the process.
For the past three years, the USDA Forest Service has sold Christmas tree permits on its Recreation.gov website. Randy Moore, the USDA Forest Service Chief, said the program has quickly expanded since 2019 and is becoming an annual tradition for many people.
“Many families are discovering their local forest for the first time to bring home their special holiday tree,” he said in a press statement. “These experiences help connect people to their local national forest and become treasured family memories.”
It will cost you anywhere from $5 to $20 to buy a permit that authorizes you to take a tree from a national forest. It’s important to note that when you buy a permit, it’s for that specific location only. Christmas tree permits are not transferrable to other forests.
To plan a trip to a national forest, you’ll first want to go to the Christmas Tree permit website on Recreation.gov. Then, enter your location and you will get a map of every park that offers a permit for to chop down your own Christmas tree.
Once you choose your location and purchase your permit, you should familiarize yourself with the specific rules of the forest you’ll be visiting. Each one has its own guidelines for the types of trees allowed to be harvested, as well as other specifications, including the maximum height of the tree and which areas of the forest allow harvesting.
Before you go, you’ll also want to read the forest service’s tips on how to prepare to cut your own Christmas tree. They suggest knowing the forecast, starting early in the day and dressing for the weather. (Since the tree you choose must be at least 200 feet from roads and campgrounds, sturdy footwear is a must.)
Why would the forest service want people to come in and chop down trees? Doesn’t that hurt the integrity of the woods? The forest service says that controlled cutting, through programs like Christmas tree permits, helps forests stay healthy in the long run. Removing dense populations of small-diameter trees opens room for the larger trees to continue to grow, as well as clearing space for wildlife that are in search of food during the winter months.
By Marie Rossiter, for Newsy.
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