Thousands Still Cut Their Own Christmas Trees In Idaho National Forests

Nov 23, 2012

Credit oatsy40 / Flickr Creative Commons

With Thanksgiving behind us many people are thinking about getting a Christmas tree. Thousands of Idahoans still head to the woods every year to cut their own trees. Permits are now on sale to harvest trees in the state’s ten national forests.

Most go for $5 apiece but in southwest Idaho’s Boise National Forest they run $10. You can buy them at several businesses in Idaho City, Horseshoe Bend and Garden Valley plus at the forest service office in Boise. Linda Steinhaus sells them there. Steinhaus says the money keeps the Christmas tree program going, helps pay staff at the visitor center and supports other recreational programs.

“Last year was good, we were right on average. We sold about 5,000 over the whole entire Boise National Forest,” she says. “We can sell between 3,600 and 5,600.”

Steinhaus says forest officials didn’t see major changes to Christmas tree permit sales during the recession or when gas prices climbed. She says for many people cutting their own tree is an important holiday tradition that transcends money.

“Even when they come in to buy the permits they bring the whole family in,” she says. “And then they talk about all the years that they’ve gone out and gotten them and it’s become a really traditional, fun experience for the whole family.”

But she says sometimes people with little winter forest experience have trouble getting their tree.

“We’ve had through the years several instances where people did get stuck,” she says. “Usually there are other people out there that can kind of help them but sometimes, you know you have to be prepared to maybe stay overnight if you get way back in there or something. It’s good to be prepared.”

She says that preparation includes the right tools like a good saw and a shovel.

Each of Idaho’s national forests have different rules and procedures for harvesting Christmas trees.  Tree hunters are encouraged to make sure they understand their particular forest's make sure they're not breaking any laws.

Copyright 2012 Boise State Public Radio