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Tree hunting (copy)

The Bitterroot National Forest offers plenty of opportunities for people to find their own Christmas tree. Permits normally are $5, but they're free for fourth-grade students this year.

Looking for the experience of cutting your own tree for Christmas this year? Consider these things before embarking on your adventure. 

  • You must have a permit in order to cut down your own Christmas tree. Permits are $5 and can be purchased at any Lolo National Forest District office or any Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office.
  • Be sure to attach the permit to the tree during transportation back to your home to avoid any penalties. 
  • Trees may be cut anywhere on National Forest or BLM lands excluding: Wilderness or National Recreation Areas, developed recreation sites or if the tree is located within 150 feet of water. 
  • Surrounding Missoula, there is the Blue Mountain Recreation Area, Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Wilderness, Pattee Canyon Recreation Area, Welcome Creek Wilderness and the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. 
  • National forests in the vicinity of Missoula include Lolo National Forest, Flathead National Forest and the Bitterroot National Forest. 
  • According to the United States Forest Service website, the tree should be less than 12 feet tall, and five inches or less of stump should be left after cutting. 
  • Don't cut a tree in a plantation, which can be recognized by uniform height and spacing of the trees. 
  • Leave the healthiest trees. Instead, select a thin tree to help reduce overcrowding, which in turn reduces competition between trees for sunlight and nutrients. 
  • Be sure to inform a family member or friend where you're going in search of a tree. 
  • Check road and trail conditions in advance; some may be inaccessible after severe winter weather. 
  • Bring all the appropriate gear: winter clothes to stay warm, an ax or hatchet to cut down a tree, sled for transport and bungee cords or ties to secure the tree to a vehicle. 
  • Maps may be purchased at National Forest and BLM offices. Recycling locations for your tree may also be found here. 
  • Last but certainly not least, enjoy the process! Create a tradition or memory that will never be forgotten. 
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