Obtain a Permit to Cut your Christmas Tree in the Monongahela National Forest
It seems that at this time of year we all tend to reminisce about our childhood Christmases, or perhaps remember our parents or grandparents telling us about their childhood holiday memories. Many of those memories involve the family spending the day together in the woods searching for and selecting the perfect tree and bringing a fresh tree back into your living room. Now days most of us go to the corner lot to pick up Christmas trees that were perhaps cut weeks ago and transported here in tight bundles on the back of a truck. Or perhaps we have chosen to buy plastic trees.
Well, your Monongahela National Forest provides you the opportunity to re-establish the old tradition of cutting your own Christmas tree. District Ranger Rondi Fischer of the Marlinton-White Sulphur District of the Mon Forest tells us how.
“This time of year the Forest Service has available Christmas Tree P:ermits” said Ranger Fischer. “For five dollars each, you can get a permit to cut a Christmas tree for your family and have that experience of cutting a live tree out in the woods. You can get the permits at the Marlinton, White Sulphur Springs, Gauley and Greenbrier District Offices. You need to have your driver’s license with you to buy the permit, but other than that, that’s all you’ll really need.”
Ranger Fischer provides some good safety tips about harvesting your tree in the woods.
“Your best bet for finding a good Spruce Tree would (be to) go to the higher elevations” Ranger Fischer says. “Right now we don’t have any snow on the ground to speak of so it’s a really good time to get your tree. But if you do decide to get your tree after the snow falls, just make sure you have a safe vehicle for possible snowy or icy roads.”
There are some restrictions about where you are allowed to cut your tree at, as Ranger Fischer explains.
“You are not allowed to cut trees at any of our campgrounds, special areas such as the Cranberry Glades, the Falls of Hills Creek or in any wilderness area like the Cranberry Wilderness” Ranger Fischer says. “If you’re cutting in any of these other areas you need to stay at least 100 feet from a road. In other words you cannot find a tree along a roads edge and go ahead and cut it. You do need to walk into the woods a little bit”
Ranger Fischer offers some suggestions about where to find a tree.
“In the Marlinton District your best opportunities are in the higher elevations such as along the Highland Scenic Highway but again, walking in a hundred feet, or Old Mine Road on the Gauley Mountain is a good place to look” Ranger Fischer says. “Each District has a little bit different permit, so you need to go to the District Office that’s closest to where you think you want to cut your tree. Marlinton, White Sulphur and Gauley Districts you can cut anywhere except the special areas I already mentioned. On the Greenbrier district, their permit is limited to what is referred to as the Mower Tract and along Forest Roads 247 and 247A. If you’re not really sure where to go, the person selling you the permit can help make sure you know what the restrictions are and where some good places are.”
There are restrictions on the tree size as the Ranger explains.
“Your tree needs to be no larger than 4 inches diameter at breast height, which is 4 and ½ feet” said Ranger Fischer. “It can be any height, but no more than 4 inches across at breast height. You should not be cutting trees just for boughs, it should be just for the tree itself.”
She offers some suggestions on finding a good location to get a tree.
“Naturally grown trees, especially Spruce, are not nearly as full as those raised in Nurseries” said Ranger Fischer. “So it may be a bit of a challenge to find your perfect tree out in the woods, but that’s part of the fun of it, walking through the woods finding that perfect tree. As far as getting a tree that’s fuller, your best bet would be to find something along an opening, like a wildlife opening or a grazing allotment where they’ve gotten a little bit more sunlight and they can grow a little bit fuller.”
Ranger Fischer says you should have straps to tie the tree to your vehicle and an axe or saw to cut the tree. When you get your tree home you should cut off an inch at the bottom before putting it in the tree stand, and keep it well watered, several times a day. She cautions that the trees look bigger when you get them home then when you saw them in the woods, so make sure they will fit in your home before you cut them.
Five dollars can get you a tree and a fun experience. Ranger Fischer.
“It can be a lot of fun for the family” says Ranger Fischer. “It’s a good day out in the woods, get a little bit of exercise, experience nature this time of the year. My family has done it for years. There’s always a thermos of hot cocoa waiting for us back at the car. Listening to Christmas music on the drive home really makes it a nice event.”