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Cutting your own tree? You should know a few things

For many families, Christmas isn’t complete without a freshly cut evergreen. Millions of trees are available at steep discounts compared to retail-lot prices, but there’s a catch: You have to cut them yourself on federal land. If a trek to the woods to cut a tree is part of your holiday tradition, here’s everything you need to know.

Cost: Each tree requires a $5 tag.

Most popular trees: True firs, pines and Douglas firs.

Limits: Two trees per household in Washington; three in Idaho.

Where to buy tags: Any U.S. Forest Service or U.S. Bureau of Land Management office, including:

• Colville National Forest Supervisors Office, 765 South Main, Colville. (509) 684-7000

• Idaho Panhandle National Forests Supervisors Office, 3815 Schreiber Way, Coeur d’Alene. (208) 765-7223

• BLM office, 1103 North Fancher Road, Spokane. (509) 536-1200

By mail: The Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District offers a “permit by mail” system. Form and instructions can be found at documents.

Field trip: Wildlife biologist Chris Loggers is again offering his popular tree-cutting field trip at Beaver Lodge at 10 a.m. Dec. 4. Field trip maps are available at Participants should prepurchase their $5 tags. RSVPs requested at (509) 684-7000.

What to pack for the trip:  Extra clothes, warm gloves, a saw, boots for snow, food, warm drinks and a rope to tie the tree to a vehicle.

Maps of federal land: Available at Forest Service and BLM offices, or nationalforeststore.

Cutting protocol: Trees must be 200 feet from main roads or recreation sites, including campgrounds, and 300 feet from streams. Select your tree from thickets or overstocked areas. Cut only one tree per tag.  

Don’t cut large trees just to get the top.

Off limits: Trees from active timber sale areas, plantations or sparsely stocked areas. Cutting is also prohibited in wilderness areas and wilderness study areas.

Attach the fluorescent tree tag to your tree before putting it into your vehicle.

Be prepared: Expect cold weather and snow. Carry tire chains; most backcountry roads are not plowed. Start early in the day while there’s still plenty of daylight. Alert others of your travel plans, including when you plan to return.

Source: U.S. Forest Service

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