Christmas tree permits for national forests available online

by Lake County Leader
| November 24, 2020 6:00 AM

Montanans looking to chop down their own Christmas tree on national forest land can now obtain a permit online for free.

Christmas tree permits are available online through Recreation.gov or on the Flathead National Forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/flathead under the “passes and permits” tab. The websites provide details on designated cutting areas, dates and types of trees that can be cut.

“For many families here in the Flathead Valley, venturing into the forest to cut a Christmas tree for the holidays is a treasured tradition,” Flathead National Forest Supervisor Kurt Steele, said in a prepared statement. “Whether you do this every year, or this is your first time out, we welcome you to the forest and hope you have a wonderful time finding your perfect tree.”

The Forest Service decided to move permit sales to Recreation.gov as an added convenience for visitors and to provide an alternative to in-person transactions due to COVID-19. Permits are also available for Lolo National Forest through Recreation.gov. Visitors will also need to set up or login to a Recreation.gov account to complete the transaction fee of $2.50.

Christmas tree permits are free this year and each permit allows up to three trees to be cut. The permit, which is valid for all national forests in Montana, must be displayed on a vehicle dashboard.

In addition, free Christmas tree permits can still be obtained by mail. Call your local ranger station and provide your information and you will receive a free permit in the mail within 2-4 business days.

Choosing and cutting a tree

•Christmas trees cut to thin overcrowded stands can be beneficial. As young stands of trees mature, they are constantly competing for more space. By cutting your Christmas tree from dense groups around the more vigorous trees, the remaining trees will grow faster to make our future forest.

•Tree species that are prohibited from harvesting for Christmas trees: whitebark pine, white pine, western red cedar.

•Make sure you cut your tree on public lands by checking the Flathead National Forest visitor map. Do not cut on private land, in wilderness areas, designated campgrounds, or existing tree plantations. Do not cut in active timber sales or areas that have been planted with new trees. Do not cut trees visible from major roads, in campgrounds, or in other well-used areas.

•Maximum tree height is 12 feet. Stump height left after cutting is a maximum of 6 inches. Stump diameter of cut tree is max 6 inches.

•Cut the leftover branches from the stump and scatter them.

•Take the whole tree. Do not remove the top of the tree; cut down the entire tree.

•If snow is on the ground, remove it from around the stump so you can accurately measure the stump and tree height.

•Carry your tree carefully out of the woods. Dragging the tree will rub off needles and bark.

•If the tree is too big to transport inside your vehicle, wrap it in canvas or tarp to prevent wind damage.