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Want to Chop Down Your Christmas Tree From a National Forest This Year? Here’s What You Need to Know

If part of your holiday tradition is cutting down your own Christmas tree, then you’ll want to hear about the deals available on America’s public lands. The Bureau of Land Management and multiple National Forests around the country open their wilderness for guests to chop down their own trees.

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While the dates vary, and you’ll want to check with your local offices, most permits go on sale at the start of November and range from about $5 to $15. Both National Forests and BLM lands require permits beforehand. 

Obviously, Christmas tree permits aren’t available on every public land as not every landscape is covered in pine trees. The rules for each public land’s tree availability can change yearly as the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management prioritize protecting natural resources.

Rules for Cutting Down Your Own Christmas Tree

Here are some general guidelines for cutting down your own Christmas tree:

  • Most holiday tree permits are issued in November. Know your location, the weather, and your ability to traverse through snow.
  • Dress for the season. Always be prepared for the cold and snow, and start tree hunting early in the day to have plenty of daylight hours.
  • Bring emergency supplies, including water and food and a first-aid kit.
  • Remember to tell someone where you are going. Your cell phone may not work on many forests.
  • 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.
  • Select a tree from overstocked areas and thickets. Watch restricted areas. Cut only one tree per tag.
  • Attach your tree tag to harvested tree before placing in vehicle.
  • Bring a rope and tarp to move your tree from the harvest area to your vehicle.

Most National Forest permits are available on Recreation.gov. Most BLM permits can be purchased here.

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