GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - The scent of pine filling your home, hanging ornaments, draping lights and holiday cheer: Having a freshly cut tree in your home for the holidays is not only a celebrated tradition, but it's a fairly cut and dry process. Here's the steps you should take to properly (and legally) harvest your own Christmas tree.
Permits are required to cut down a tree for your home and are available from the Forest Service for trees on the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National forests, and from the Bureau of Land Management for trees on BLM land. Be sure to check that you contact the right organization for the place you want to harvest your holiday centerpiece. Cutting down a tree without a permit will result not only in the confiscation of your tree, but also a fine.
Permits from the Forest Service are $8 per tree and are available at the Grand Valley District office at 2777 Crossroads Blvd. in Grand Junction. The Forest Service limits the amount of tree permits per household to five, and trees cannot be resold. Permits from the BLM are $10 and are available at their regional office at 2815 H Road. Maps and guidelines for locations are available at each organization.
The Forest Service and BLM offer maps and suggestions of the best places to find trees to cut. The Forest Service also recommends driving a four-wheel-drive vehicle or one with chains with a full tank of gas. Be sure to bring a tarp, a rope and tie-downs for your tree. Don't forget winter clothes, a first-aid kit, extra food and water for your excursion.
Forest-service permits authorize the cutting of trees 6 inches in diameter or less, measured at 6 inches above ground level. Be sure to cut the tree as close to the ground as you can, and remove any limbs attached to the stump. The BLM allows the cutting of Pinyon Pine and Juniper trees under 9 feet in height.
Affix your tag to a sturdy part of the tree before you remove it from the cutting site. The tag should be visible once it is safely tied down to your vehicle. Pack out any limbs that may have fallen off the tree, as well as your trash. After the holidays, you can recycle your tree at the Mesa County Landfill.
Check out the Forest Service guidelines for harvesting a tree and see maps of recommended locations at www.fs.usda.gov/gmug. The BLM's guidelines for tree harvesting are available at www.blm.gov.