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Help thin national forests by cutting your own tree; some families get a free permit

Help thin national forests by cutting your own tree; some families get a free permit
Posted at 8:45 AM, Nov 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-30 12:26:07-05

The US Forest Service hopes families will want to end 2020 with a live tree, preferably one cut from a national forest.

Cutting down a Christmas tree is a tradition for many, and a healthy tradition for the forests as smaller trees get thinned out.

“By cutting your own tree, you take an active part in managing your national forests,” according to the US Forest Service webpage.

Tree hunters should look for an area of tightly-knit, dense trees and pick one from there. This will in turn give the surrounding trees more space to grow, Hillary Santanez, recreation event coordinator with the White River National Forest, explained to KMGH.

Thinning the forests in this fashion reduces competition for resources and nutrients so the other trees can grow stronger and healthier, Santanez said. It also helps the trees handle stressful environmental situations, such as drought. In addition, thinning dense forests can help with wildfire mitigation.

Families who have a fourth or fifth grader can get a free permit from the Every Kid Outdoors initiative through the US Forest Service.

Otherwise, permits to cut down a tree in a national forest run $5 to $20 depending on the park. Permits are required. All permit sales are online for 2020, along with maps, how to select a tree, guidance for cutting it down and safety reminders. Like, dressing for the cold, possibly dark and snowy forest conditions.

The different parks have different rules about where a Christmas tree can be cut down from, usually it has to be about 200 feet from roads and campgrounds.

"You want to make sure that you're not trespassing on private property, so going onto our website and downloading a map is essential so that you can make sure that you're staying on forest land because a lot of the forest land, especially in the Front Range area, is really adjacent to private property, and you have to make sure that you're following the law while you're up there," Pike and San Isabel National Forests and Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands Public Affairs Officer Crystal Young told KOAA News.

There are height and trunk size requirements as well to make sure tree hunters are taking the smaller trees to help thin out forests. Find details on the US Forest Service website.