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Tips for Heading into the Forest to Find the Perfect Christmas Tree

If you are heading out to one of Montana’s forests in search of the perfect family Christmas tree this holiday season, here are some tips.

  • Before visiting a nearby forest, find out if you are allowed to cut down a Christmas tree and if a permit and fee are required. Cutting down Christmas trees is allowed in select National Forests in Montana, but a permit is required.

A great resource to learn the rules and guidelines for National forests is or contact your local forest district office.

  • Follow the same safety measures you would follow when exploring Montana’s backcountry:

o Check the weather.

o Wear appropriate clothing.

o Take a map and compass.

o Tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return.

o Do not go alone.

o Bring emergency supplies, including water, food, and a first-aid kit.

o Also, don’t forget tools to cut down the tree, safety equipment (more below), and rope and tarp to transport your tree.

  • Selecting your tree:

o Choose an appropriate tree size. It’s a good idea to measure the space where your tree will be placed in your home and measure the tree to ensure it will fit.

Remember that famous scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation?

Russ: “Dad, that thing wouldn’t fit in our yard.”

Clark: “It’s not going in our yard, Russ. It’s going in our living room.”

o Select a tree from an overgrown area.

Strategic removal of select trees relieves excessive growth and overcrowding, providing a better environment for growing healthy trees and plants.

o The tree’s trunk should be 6 inches or less in diameter.

o The tree should be at least 200 feet from main roads and recreation sites and away from streams, rivers, lakes, and wetlands.

Be sure to consult the rules specific to the forest you are visiting.

  • Cutting down your tree:

o Please do not cut off just the top of a tree! Cut down the entire tree.

o When cutting the tree:

  • Consult the rules of the forest to learn what tools you can use to cut down your tree. Many National forests only allow a handsaw or axe.

  • Use safety gear, including work gloves, work boots, and protective eyewear.

  • Make sure the people with you are well clear of the area.·

  • Cut the tree up to six inches above ground level. To ensure you get an accurate measurement, move snow away from the trunk.

For more tips and guidelines, visit:

· US Department of Agriculture – Forest Service:

· The Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation:

Have a safe and happy holiday season!

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