Planning for your Christmas tree

It’s not yet Thanksgiving, but it’s never too early to plan for the rapid-approaching Christmas holiday season, especially when it comes to saving money.

We’re not suggesting that anyone sharpen their saw yet for this year’s Christmas tree, but it’s not too early to start planning for it.

A fresh-cut, personally-selected Christmas tree from a national forest adds to the holiday season and is a way to stretch holiday dollars.

A cutting permit costs $5 per tree and can be purchased at any U.S. Forest Service District Ranger Station.

Up to five permits can be sold to a household. Permits and maps may be also obtained by mail but you must allow time for a check to travel through the mail and permit to be returned, says Megan Healy of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

Forest Service permits come with a list of guidelines that include reminders that no trees may be cut in wilderness areas, marked timber sale areas or within 300 feet of campgrounds, lodges, summer homes, private lands and ranger stations.

“Bringing home a tree from a national forest is a wonderful holiday tradition,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “We want to make sure families are safe this holiday season as they venture into the forest to find the perfect tree – be aware of changing weather conditions, dress accordingly and always follow safe cutting practices.”

Here are some tips for a safe and successful tree search:

– Make sure your chosen tree is on National Forest System lands; visitor maps can be viewed or purchased at Forest Service offices including your local district ranger office.

– Tree cutting is not permitted in designated wilderness areas.

– Choose a cutting area that is away from private property, plantations, developed recreation or administration sites.

– Select a tree at least 50 feet off the roadside, trail, lake or recreation site.

– Select a tree the correct size for your home. Please don’t cut the top off of a taller tree.

– Arrive early at your cutting area. It may take longer than you think to find that special tree.

– Be prepared for a winter outdoor experience. Wear proper clothing, bring plenty of snacks and water and make sure your vehicle is prepared for winter travel. Many national forest roads are not maintained or snowplowed during the winter.

– Let someone know where you are going and when to expect you back. Don’t rely on your cell phone as it may not work in many areas of the forest.

– Don’t forget a rope to tie down your tree. After you’ve cut down your tree, wrap it in a tarp and tie it to your vehicle’s roof.

– Cut your tree a bit longer than you’ll need (6 to 12 inches), so you’ll have room to make a fresh cut on the bottom just before bringing it into the warm house. Don’t cut it too much in advance as it will begin to seal up.

– Get your tree into its stand as soon as possible.

– As the tree warms and thaws it will take up water; it will need a lot more when it’s new, so check the reservoir frequently in the beginning. Even though it has been cut, your tree is still “alive” and the needles will take on water. As the days go on, the cells in the cut end react to the wound and seal up and less water will be used, and the tree will begin to die.

For more information, call or stop by one of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest District Ranger Offices.

Local offices are located in Florence (715) 528-4464, Laona (715) 674-4481, and Eagle River (715) 479-2827.