The holiday season can be a magical time of year; the snow, the loved ones, warm fire places, and fun traditions. That being said, one of the most beloved traditions is that of the Christmas tree. Whether you enjoy decorating, going to a farm and picking one out or just looking at it throughout the holiday season, christmas trees are a great way to bring the outside indoors and make your space more festive.
Something many people may not know relating to Christmas trees is that for a simple fee of $5 to the Forest Service, you and those you hold close can trek onto National forest land and harvest your very own Christmas tree. I know you may be imaging the scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation… wondering miles into the middle of nowhere for the perfect tree just to get home and its too big, has a squirrel nest, and leaks sap EVERYWHERE. Getting your own tree doesn’t have to be like that!
By going into a crowded stand in a National Forest near you, you can actually improve your local forest’s health. How does cutting a tree down improve forest health? Well, the trick is to pick out trees with small trunk diameters. Small meaning two inches or less. By cutting down these trees, you are opening the forest floor. By doing this, trees that are bigger can continue to grow bigger and native vegetation can creep into the understory, providing more food and habitat for native critters. Cutting down smaller trees in the forest can help progress a stand into the next phase of forest growth, providing more benefits for native animals and us alike.
So, if you haven‘t gotten your tree yet, or are in search of a new Christmas tradition, consider harvesting your own tree! It may not be grand or as full as a farm tree, but the memories from going out into nature and getting your own are priceless. Just be sure to brush your boots good before going out so invasives don’t get to that freed understory before native vegetation does :).
Happy holidays and happy tree hunting!