“If you’re tight on a budget, come out here and get your Christmas tree,” said one Ocala National Forest worker
You can cut down your own Christmas tree in the forest, just like in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation — and it's bound to be far less disastrous!
Some U.S. National Forests are giving Christmas tree permits to anyone that wants to hunt down and cut their own evergreen for the holiday season, and for much less than buying a pre-cut tree from a stand.
According to the National Christmas Tree Association, there are approximately 25-30 million real Christmas trees sold in the U.S. every year, and the average cost, as of 2022, is about $80.
However, a Christmas tree permit from the U.S. National Forests can cost as little as $5, depending on which park you visit. For example, at the Ocala National Forest in Florida, a permit costs $10, and under the permit a visitor can cut up to five trees, according to Good Morning America, whose chief meteorologist Ginger Zee visited for a segment aired on Tuesday.
“If you’re tight on a budget, come out here and get your Christmas tree,” Ocala National Forest District Silviculturist Jared Nobles told Zee. “It’s an adventure.”
Though, he admitted that one of the drawbacks was that the type of pine tree people can get depends on the area they live. At the Ocala National Forest, for example, visitors can find and cut down a sand pine tree, which is smaller than a typical Christmas tree.
The permit service is also only available in U.S. National Forest parks in a some states (mostly in the West), including Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, West Virginia, Vermont, New Hampshire and Florida.
Nobles also notes. that cutting the trees is mutually beneficial to the U.S. National Forest areas because it clears out some areas for other trees to grow.
“By thinning out the smaller diameter trees, you allow the bigger diameter trees to grow," Nobles said. He added that it also helps build resiliency to insect diseases, prevents wildfires and aids endangered tree species.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service first announced the permits in October, citing convenience for people who live near the national forests.
“Venturing into a local national forest to find that special tree is an experience that creates treasured family memories and stories,” said USDA Forest Service Chief Randy Moore in a press release. “It is through these experiences that people establish important connections to the forest that can lead to a lifetime of adventures and instill a commitment to stewardship.”
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Officials noted that permit holders will need to follow the rules of their permit, which include details like “cutting area maps, types of trees to cut and important planning tips.” Their website also notes that each forest will have specific guidelines and season dates for cutting a holiday tree.
For more information, people can visit recreation.gov/tree-permits.
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