‘Tis the season, and when you live in the magical winter wonderland of the Sierra Nevada, there still exists the opportunity to decorate for the holidays with your very own tree you pick out from the forest. But there are some important DOs and DON’TS from the forest service to pay attention to.

Permits to cut Christmas trees in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest are available for purchase from Nov. 1 thru Dec. 24 on the Austin-Tonopah, Bridgeport, Carson, Ely, and Mountain City, Ruby Mountains, and Jarbidge Ranger districts. The U.S. Forest Service Christmas Tree Program is designed for families, businesses, and institutions wishing to cut their own trees for decorating.


  • Don’t Go Too Early– Although land management agencies start selling Christmas tree permits around the first of November to make it easier for the public to purchase a permit, the best time to cut a Christmas tree is between late November and mid-December. The average time a well-watered cut tree holds its needles is 3-4 weeks.
  • Purchase a Permit– Ensure you have read and understand the rules and regulations. The Christmas tree tag(s) and permit must be in your possession when cutting your Christmas tree(s). Permittee must be present when the tree is cut. For a list of vendors visit: http://bit.ly/HTNFChristmasTreePermit.
  • Measure Your Space– Make sure to measure the place in the house where the tree will go (height & width) and measure the space in your vehicle where you will be transporting your tree. The tree you cut must be within 10 feet of another live tree. The maximum tree diameter you can cut is six inches at the base of the tree. The maximum stump height allowed is 6 inches above the bare soil.
  • Take a Tape Measure– It is always best to bring a measuring tape to measure the trees.
  • Boots and Gloves– Wear sturdy boots that protect feet and good, heavy-duty work gloves. Have some kind of eye protection to protect them from rogue pine needs. Wet wipes are great for removing sap from hands and fingers.
  • Test for Freshness– In order to make sure your chosen tree is fresh, run a branch through your enclosed hand. The needles should not come off easily. Bend the outer branches – they should be pliable. If they are brittle and snap easily, the tree is too dry.
  • Cutting the Tree– The tree you cut must be within 10 feet of another live tree. The maximum tree diameter you can cut is six inches at the base of the tree. The maximum stump height allowed is 6 inches above the bare soil. Please ensure that the maximum height of the stump left behind is no taller than six inches above bare soil with no live branches left on the stump.
  • Shake It– The tree may well have become home to birds, bugs, and spiders during the year, so once it is cut, shake it! A vigorous shaking will not only get rid of loose pine needles, but will also evict anything making a home in tree. Once you get the tree home spray it down with water before taking it into the house.
  • Be Careful During Transport– Be careful not to break branches or bend the thin part at the top. Also, you should prepare your vehicle for transport. If you are putting the tree on top of your car, bring ropes or tie-downs. If you are going to put it in the vehicle, make sure to line the back area of the car with a blanket because there will be shedding, and it will be difficult to clean. Make sure to attach the tree tag in a location that will remain on the tree and visible while in transit.
  • Ensure Freshness– When you get your tree home, take a one-inch slice off the bottom of the trunk where the tree was cut to allow it to soak up nutrients and water faster. Get the tree into water as soon as possible. Make sure the water is not too cold (it can shock the tree).
  • Water Daily– An average tree may consume between a quart and a gallon of water per day. If the water level drops below the cut end of the trunk, a seal will form and no more water will be absorbed by the tree unless another fresh cut is made. So do not forget to add water every day. To keep the tree from drying out, place it well away from sunny windows, heat registers, space heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves.


More information regarding Christmas tree permits can be found here.


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