Recent storms have brought snow to the mountain tops, blanketing higher elevation trees in white and turning these areas of the national forest into winter wonderlands. Along with these seasonal changes comes the opportunity for families to purchase Christmas tree permits from the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Permits go on sale for $5 each at all National Forest ranger stations and the forest headquarters starting November 1.
Each permit allows a family to cut one tree, with a tree height limit of 15 feet, or dig a small live transplant tree. Permits may be purchased in person or by mail and are limited to two permits per family. The permits are non-refundable and are only good on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
The Christmas tree permit must be validated and securely attached to the tree trunk between the limbs and be visible during transportation. Christmas trees cannot be harvested in Wilderness areas, campgrounds, developed recreation areas, or tree plantations.
When venturing out into the national forest in pursuit of a Christmas tree, following are some suggestions to make the trip a safe and enjoyable experience:
- Before leaving home, notify a friend or family member of the planned route of travel and expected return time. Stick to the plan and be sure to contact that individual upon returning home.
- Check road conditions with local ranger district offices.
- Consider carefully clothing, equipment and vehicle needs, making certain they are adequate for the worst conditions that might be encountered. If planning to drive over snow-covered roads, a high-clearance vehicle may be best, and don’t forget to carry tire chains and a shovel.
- Once snow starts to build up, always check the avalanche hazard before leaving home.
- Leave early in the day to allow for maximum daylight.
- Be familiar with the area where Christmas tree cutting will occur.
- Carry extra clothing, food and tools for those unexpected mishaps that may happen.
- An Every Kid in a Park Pass or the Northwest Forest Pass may be used at trailheads requiring a fee. However, once enough snow accumulates and selected trailhead parking areas convert to sno-parks, a valid Washington State Sno-Park permit must be displayed on the vehicle windshield when parking at any State Sno-Park.
For those who can’t make it into national forest offices, many local businesses will also be selling Christmas tree permits starting mid-November. Check the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest web site for a list of vendors (www.fs.usda.gov/okawen).
All national forest offices will be closed on upcoming holidays—Veterans Day, November 10, Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 23, and Christmas day, December 25.
(By Robin DeMario, USFS)