July 25, 2012 in Idaho

Eastern Washington tree to adorn Capitol lawn for Christmas 2013

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Colorado this year

This year’s tree will be from the White River National Forest in Colorado, where Forest Service officials will mark the occasion with presentations about bark beetles’ impact on drought-stricken forests.

A tree from the Colville National Forest will grace the nation’s capital during the 2013 Christmas season.

The Northeast Washington forest was selected during a national competition in which the 155 national forests could submit proposals to supply the Capitol tree.

In the coming months, Colville National Forest employees will be scouting for a classically shaped Engelmann spruce, grand fir or subalpine fir to send to Washington, D.C. They’ll narrow the choice down to six to eight finalists. Next summer, a representative of the U.S. Office of the Capitol Architect will fly to Eastern Washington to judge the candidates and make the final selection.

“We think that we have some really nice trees that would fit the requirements,” said Franklin Pemberton, a spokesman for the Colville National Forest.

Wetter areas of the forest provide good habitat for Christmas tree-type species, including spruce and fir, Pemberton said.

Englemann spruce trees are known for their pyramid shape; grand fir for their fragrance and foliage; and subalpine fir for their slender, spire-like profiles.

The Capitol tree must be 60 to 85 feet tall, with good coloring and a symmetrical form. In addition to shape, trees will be scrutinized for how closely they model representative traits of their species.

In 2006, the Capitol tree was cut from the Olympic National Forest. This is the first time that a tree from Eastern Washington will be chosen.

A minimal amount of tax dollars is spent on the program, Pemberton said. Private sponsors donate the tractor-trailer to haul the tree to Washington, D.C., along with the driver’s time.

Washington state’s schoolchildren will make the approximately 10,000 ornaments to decorate the tree. After a November cutting ceremony, the tree will travel around the state for community events. One student will be chosen to make the trip to the Capitol to light the tree along with the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. The decorated tree will be displayed on the Capitol Hill lawn, facing the Washington Monument.

Education is a big part of the Capitol tree program, giving the Forest Service the opportunity to talk about the role of trees in providing habitat and healthy watersheds, Pemberton said.


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