Every year after Thanksgiving, the holiday spirit and the urge to find the perfect tree to centerpiece your living room fills the air. No doubt scouting out the perfect tree becomes a milestone for many families and a tradition that lives on for years - doing it right though, is important and there are several rules and regulations to keep in mind this season.
The Dillon Ranger District has made 800 permits available for $10, each one allowing the holder to cut five trees. Currently the district has sold 50 permits for the season and sales will continue through Dec. 22.
Tree cutting is permitted by district ranger Jan Cutts in the designated Lake Hill area located between Dillon Dam Road and Interstate 70. It is the only place in Summit County where cutting is permitted and only lodgepole may be cut.
"This year, we've made enough headway with dealing with the concerns of last year" that a cutting area can be provided, forest service spokesman Patrick Thrasher said.
More permits are available this year within the Dillon Ranger District to prevent the spread of dwarf mistletoes, a parasitic plant that lives on lodgepole pines.
"We're hoping to reduce the spread of dwarf mistletoe," said Valerie Glowinski, Dillon Ranger District visitors information specialist. "It's been around for quite some time and really doesn't cause too much trouble for lodgepole, but it's a bothersome plant we want to moderate."
With one permit, five trees can be harvested in all areas of the White River National Forest except in wilderness areas, commercial timber sales areas, recreation and ski areas, administrative areas, Glenwood Canyon and No Name Road near Camp Hale, according to Glowinski. Maps are available at the offices where permits are sold. The Dillon Ranger District Office is open Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
A limit of five permits are allowed per individual. Permits must be attached to the tree prior to cutting and must be left on the tree until it arrives at its final destination.
A lodgepole pine tree can be identified by its needles. This tree species has a cluster of two needles coming off the branch and the cone for the lodgepole pine is about the size of a golf ball. Silverthorne's Dillon Ranger District Office has detailed descriptions of the tree available with the purchase of a permit, according to Glowinski.
If perusing the Dillon Ranger District for this holiday season's tree, parking along the Dam Road is recommended.
"We want to make sure people park in the Old Dillon Reservoir area not along Interstate 70," Glowinski said. "They can be ticketed along the highway, and the parking lot for the old trail on the right of Dam Road is a great access point to several trees."
In the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District, 200 permits are available until Dec. 24 for holiday tree cutting in Eagle County with offices in Eagle and Minturn.
The Forest Service prohibits cutting trees within 300 feet of campgrounds or trailheads, organizational camp sites and residential properties.
Taking home that perfect tree without the right credentials though, will result in fines up to $450. A permit is only $10 and available every day through Dec. 22 at the ranger district office in Silverthorne.
Cutting a Christmas tree without a permit is subject to a $275 fine and removing the tree from the area without a permit is subject to a $175 fine.
Permits are valid for all lodgepole pines up to 12 feet in height, a tree exceeding that dimension is subject to a minimum fine of $75.
Trees must be cut 12 inches or less above the ground level after removing snow from the base of the tree if it is not visible. Once a tree is cut, the permit holder must cut off remaining limbs around the stump, according to Bill Kight, spokesman for the White River National Forest.
"There's not a lot of snow right now, but it's important to clear the area around the tree you're cutting," Kight said. "Leaving the stump as cleanly cut as possible is the best etiquette for removing the trees from the forest."
The Forest Service recommends storing the tree upright in a cool shaded place sheltered from cold winds with the trunk in a bucket of water or packed in snow. Cutting off at least two inches from the bottom before bringing it indoors will increase the rate the tree absorbs water, keeping it fresh longer, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture website.