Each year, about 1,600 permits are sold for Routt National Forest to people wanting to go to the woods and harvest their own Christmas tree, usually a fine little fir.
A few people have expressed concern about cutting young trees during a beetle epidemic. The mountain pine beetle epidemic has killed the majority of mature lodgepole pine trees, but not the young trees. The forest is full of little trees — spruce, fir, lodgepole and aspen. Fir trees usually are preferred for Christmas trees because their needles are softer, their crowns are fuller, they smell wonderful and they most resemble the perfect traditional Christmas tree. A walk through the forest will reveal a plentiful, healthy supply of young trees. Nature is resilient.
Permits to cut Christmas trees are available at all Routt National Forest offices for $10 each. Each permit allows for the cutting of one tree on National Forest system lands. There is a limit of five permits per household. Trees must be for personal use, not for resale.
Some areas of the forest are closed to tree cutting or may be difficult to access, so contact the local Forest Service office for specific site information, including the status of roads. Wilderness areas are off limits to cutting on all Forest Service districts including the Flat Tops, Mount Zirkel, Rawah, Neota and Never Summer.
Weather conditions can change quickly, so be prepared.
Dress for winter conditions and have your vehicle equipped with adequate tires, chains and a shovel. Some reminders when cutting a tree:
■ 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 lowest. If one living branch is left on the stump, the tree will continue to grow, though it probably will become deformed and encourage disease.
■ If boughs are wanted, please choose a taller tree than needed (maximum 20 feet) and use the lower branches for boughs. Please do not cut boughs from other living trees.
Tree-cutting regulations have been established to maintain a healthy forest environment.
For more information, contact your local Forest Service office.
■ Hahns Peak-Bears Ears District Office
8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays
925 Weiss Drive
■ Yampa District Office
8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays
300 Roselawn St.
Permits can be ordered through the mail from the Yampa office
■ Parks District Office
8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays
100 Main St.
Diann Ritschard is the public affairs officer for Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests & Thunder Basin National Grassland.