Tips for choosing, cutting and caring for a locally sourced tree
Special to the Daily
Find these trees
These are the four species of tree that are legal to cut in the White River National Forest.
• Subalpine fir: Needles have white lines both above and below the needle and are about 1 inch long. The needles are massed on the upper surface of the twig and are very neat in appearance. Cylindrical, purple, woody cones are about 2 inches to 4 inches long.
• Douglas fir: Needles are about 1 inch long with a blunt tip and are green on top with 2 white bands below. Woody cones are 3 inches to 4 inches long, hang down and have pitchfork-shaped bracts.
• Engelmann spruce: Needles are 1 inch long, sharp, blue-green to green and all tend to point forward. The needles are usually square in cross-section and therefore roll between the fingers and stink when crushed. Woody cones are about 2 inches long that hang down, with very thin scales with jagged edges.
• Lodgepole pine: Two needles per bundle, clustered, that are 1 inch to 3 inches long and commonly twisted, or contorted. Small, egg-shaped cones, one 1 inch to 2 inches long, often with a prickle at the end of each scale.
Source: Descriptions from Oregon State University College of Forestry
This year, a tree from the White River National Forest will be hosted at Rockefeller Center in New York City, and you, too, can have one.
Christmas tree permits are still available for the White River National Forest at the Holy Cross Ranger Station in Minturn. Permits cost $10, and there’s a maximum of five permits per person. The Ranger Station is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Payment of permits can be with cash, check or credit card.
Permits are also available at the ranger stations in Aspen, Sopris, Blanco, Dillon and Rifle, as well as the supervisor’s office in Glenwood Springs. The Forest Travel Management Plan closed many forest roads prior to or on Nov. 23, and officials do not recommend traveling on roads that have not been recently plowed.
Maps showing where tree cutting is allowed are available at all offices where permits are sold and will be provided with permits, along with a regulations list. Below are a list of tips the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District has compiled for choosing a Christmas tree and care.
CHOOSING YOUR TREE
• There are four types of trees that are legal to cut in Eagle County: subalpine fir, Douglas fir, Engelmann spruce and lodgepole pine. It is prohibited to cut Colorado blue spruce.
• Trees must be less than 15 feet tall from the stump, no greater than 6 inches in diameter at the base and the stump height should be no greater than 6 inches high.
• Find groups of trees and select one of the smaller ones. You have now promoted this stand of trees to grow faster and healthier.
• The best tools for the job are a small handsaw and a camp shovel. Chainsaws are not permitted for cutting trees. You may need to clear the snow from around the base of the tree. The ground is the base, not the surface of the snow.
• Remember, trees are appropriately sized for your home at a Christmas tree lot. Out in the forest, the trees seem smaller in proportion to the landscape. Before you choose a tree, measure it first.
• The best trees’ branches do not snap off; test lower branches.
• To transport your tree, wrap with some type of covering like a blanket to minimize damage on the drive home, and remember to attach your Christmas tree permit to the base of your tree before transporting. The tag must be attached to the tree at the cutting location and must be left on until it arrives at its final destination.
• You cannot cut a tree in wilderness areas or proposed wilderness areas, recreational areas, ski areas, campgrounds and picnic areas, near lakes and streams, in wetlands, in active commercial logging sites or within 100 feet of main roads. Parking on the shoulder of Interstate 70 is also prohibited.
• Remember, when going into a snowy winter environment, that falling trees are always a hazard. When traveling, be aware of your surroundings and avoid patches of dead trees, as they can fall without warning. Stay out of the forest when there are strong winds. If you are in the forest and the winds kick up, head to a clearing out of reach of any trees. Do not rely on cellphones for safety, as there are many places in the national forest that have little or no coverage. Remember, your safety is your responsibility.
• Trees are for personal use only and can’t be resold.
CARING FOR YOUR TREE
• Cut about 1 inch off the base and place immediately in water or the tree will seal and reject water. Regular tap water will do. Check the water several times per day for the first week and at least once a day until taking it down. Your tree will soak up 800 percent more water than when the tree was growing in the forest.
• Increase the humidity and block furnace outlets near the tree to prevent fire. Also, check your Christmas lights for any signs of fraying or damage.
Bring the wonderful smells and bounty of the forest into your home this season. Branches can also be used on windowsills and trellises, to make wreathes, as loose carpet for garden paths and for potpourri. And a tree keeps on giving — dry the trunk and use for firewood or garden stakes.
Vail Daily staff reporters contributed to this article.