Imagine if you could combine a timeless family tradition with your concern for sustainability and healthy forests. You can do just that when you purchase a permit -- good from November 14 through Christmas Eve -- from the Mt. Hood National Forest to cut your Christmas tree this year.
When you head into the forest to find the perfect tree, you're playing a role in the US Forest Service's forest management plan. "We all know there are too many trees in the forest; it's one small part of forest management to oversee the health of our forests," said Mark Terhune, the Special Forest Products Coordinator for the Mt. Hood National Forest.
The rules for cutting Christmas trees in the forest help promote overall forest health and ensure there will be harvestable trees in years to come. "There must be a tree of similar size free to grow within eight feet of the one you cut. Free to grow means the area is cleared of competing vegetation, making for favorable growing conditions for the remaining tree. A tree only needs four things: water, sunlight, nutrients and space. This program helps create that," Terhune explained.
There are three species that are popular for Christmas tree hunters on the west side of Mt. Hood. Noble, Pacific silver and Douglas firs are all common and make great additions to any living room during the holidays. Terhune said that while some people also like to use hemlock trees, there is a downside. "They'll lose their chlorophyll quicker," he advised.
If you plan on heading out to find your tree, be sure to follow many of the same safety practices you would with any other excursion in a national forest. "Make sure someone knows where you're going and when you plan to be back; cell coverage is limited. Be sure to have appropriate clothing and bring food and water. Above all, don't trust your GPS," warned Terhune.
GPS often doesn't know the latest road conditions, so it's best to check with a US Forest Service ranger to see which roads are open, plowed and safe to travel.
Some additional tips for cutting a tree from the Mt. Hood National Forest:
As one could imagine, managing the Christmas tree program is a favorite part of the job for many rangers. "We're caring for the land and serving the people, and Christmas trees are just one of the best things we do. That family involvement, the experience and the community support, it's great," Terhune said.
For more tips on cutting your own tree from the forest, check out this piece written by one of our coworkers who did just that. You can also see videos with more tips and get your $5 permit online from the Mt. Hood National Forest website. After that, you're ready to make amazing memories with your family, and perhaps even start a new tradition.