Cutting down a tree for Christmas is a tradition for many across the country.
By cutting your tree, you take an active part in managing your national forests, the U.S. Forest Service says.
If you're like Clark Griswold, the tree is the most important of Christmas symbols, and you can head into the country to embrace the frosty majestic of the winter landscape.
But, like Griswold and his family, it isn't as easy as driving out to the middle of nowhere to waste a whole Saturday to find the perfect tree.
General guidelines for cutting down trees
Public land agencies set policies for cutting down trees, and some even sell permits to partake in the tradition.
The U.S. Forest Service urges you to contact your nearest forest district office to obtain a permit for home firewood, Christmas tree and tree cutting instructions.
The Forest Service provides these guidelines for cutting down Christmas trees:
- Permits must be in your possession at all times while in the forest.
- Contact each forest district office for specific dates, maps, times, and accessibility.
- Before heading out, check the local forest for the latest warnings, such as fire or road closures.
- Always check weather conditions for proper dress attire in the woods.
- Tell someone you know where you are going and when you'll return. Your cell phone may not work in many forests.
- Check with local district offices before you cut dead or downed trees. Dead trees could provide animal habitats.
- Stay away from areas along the sides of streams, rivers, lakes, and wet areas. Check with the ranger district for the proper distance.
- Be aware of areas where trees may be weakened by storms, insect damage or fire.
- Learn how to read a map and use a compass – and carry them both with you.
- The tree you choose must be at least 200 feet from main roads, recreation sites and campgrounds, and stay away from areas along the sides of streams, rivers, lakes, and wet areas. Check with the ranger district for the proper distance.
- Select a tree with a trunk six inches or less in diameter, and prepare to cut the tree no more than six inches above ground level. Never cut a tall tree just for the top.
- Cut only one tree per tag.