Permits now available to cut your own Christmas tree

Tree cutting guidelines

- Trees may not be cut within 100 feet of roads or within 200 feet of campgrounds, picnic areas, scenic pullouts, administrative sites, timber sale areas or designated Wilderness areas.

- Choose a tree that is growing with other trees in a cluster. Do not choose the "perfect" tree that stands alone. The forest environment benefits by thinning the clusters and allowing the strong trees to remain and provide for a healthy genetic source for the future forest.

- Maximum tree height is 20 feet.

- Cut tree 6 inches or less above the ground, or below the lowest living branch, whichever is lower. If one living branch is left on the stump, the tree will continue to grow, although it will probably become deformed and encourage disease.

- If boughs are wanted, choose a taller tree than needed (maximum 20 feet) and use the lower branches for boughs. Don't cut boughs from other living trees.

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Finding and cutting your own Christmas tree can double as a fun family activity and a way to improve the health of the forest. National Forest permits are now available for $10 at U.S. Forest Service offices in Colorado and Wyoming.

— Sure, buying a Christmas tree off the blacktop in a parking lot is a popular option, but some residents continue to choose the old-fashioned method and head to the forest for their perfect evergreen.

Permits are now available for Christmas tree-seekers for $10 at U.S. Forest Service offices in Colorado and Wyoming. Each permit allows for the cutting of one tree on National Forest system lands.

"It's kind of a tradition here," said David Watke, visitor information specialist for the Routt National Forest office in Steamboat Springs. "About 2,000 permits were sold last year for trees in the Routt National Forest."

In Steamboat, permits may be purchased at the Forest Service office on Weiss Drive, while in Yampa, permits are available at the Forest Service office on Roselawn Street.

"Some areas of the forest are closed to tree cutting or may be difficult to access, so please contact the local Forest Service office for specific site information," reminded Diann Ritschard, spokeswoman for the Forest Service.

She added that along the Bear River Corridor - in the Yampa Ranger District - trees within 300 yards of Forest Service Road 900 are off limits to cutting.

"Visitors to the Hahns Peak/Bear's Ears District are reminded that cutting is prohibited in the Fish Creek Falls area and within the boundaries of the Steamboat Ski Area," she said. "Also, all wilderness areas are off limits, including the Flat Tops, Mount Zirkel, Rawah, Neota and Never Summer."

Watke asked tree cutters to not choose trees in open meadows and to help with fire mitigation efforts by selecting trees massed in large clusters.

"Leave the picture-perfect tree standing out there in the forest," he said. "Choose one growing in a clump and give a chance for the smaller trees to grow and fill out the forest."

Watke said a few safety precautions should be heeded before jaunting off into the forest with saw or axe in hand.

"Be prepared for what the weather can throw at you," he said. One popular tree-cutting destination in Routt County is the Rabbit Ears Pass area because of its proximity to Steamboat.

"Dress warm and have a shovel and some winter emergency gear," Watke said. "You shouldn't be selecting a tree that poses you any threat."

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