News Release

Forest Service encourages safe holiday tree-cutting practices

November 18, 2013 -

The U.S. Forest Service has some important safety tips for those Americans journeying into their national forests in search of the perfect holiday tree.

“Bringing home a tree from a national forest is a wonderful holiday tradition,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “We want to make sure families are safe this holiday season as they venture into the forest to find the perfect tree - be aware of changing weather conditions, dress accordingly and always follow safe cutting practices.”

Each year, local Forest Service offices sell permits that allow individuals to cut one fresh tree on national forest lands. Fees for the permits vary dependent on location.  The permit program helps the agency thin stands that have a concentration of small diameter trees.

Reminders and tips for cutting your tree:

  • Travel with a companion, and always tell another person when and where you plan to take a trip into a forest.
  • Remember to take your tree-cutting permit and a map of the location.
  • Think safety. Dress warmly and in layers. Check your weather forecast and be aware of changing weather conditions. Keep your gas tank full. Have tire chains, if necessary, and don’t forget to bring a rope and tarp to transport your tree home. Also do not forget emergency supplies, including water and food.
  • Select a tree with a trunk that is six inches or less in diameter, and prepare to cut the tree no more than six inches above ground level.
  • Put on eye protection and heavy duty work gloves.
  • Decide in which direction you want the tree to fall. Make sure the direction you choose is clear of all obstacles, including power lines and vehicles.
  • Make the back cut by standing to the side and away from the trunk. Step away as soon as the tree begins to fall.

Contact your local Forest Service office to learn how to obtain your permit and for additional tree-cutting guidelines. Tree cutting may not be allowed on every national forest.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency also has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.