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Tree Cutting

Firewood and Christmas trees

Most national forests allow users to harvest trees for personal use firewood and Christmas trees, but you must first have a Forest Service-issued permit and you must follow specific guidelines, which can vary from forest to forest. 

Here are some general guidelines:

  • Contact the forest district office nearest you to obtain a permit for home firewood, Christmas tree and tree cutting instructions.
  • Wood or Christmas trees cannot be sold. Permits must be in your possession at all times while on the forest.
  • Contact each forest district office for specific dates, maps, times, and accessibility.
  • Before heading out, check the local forest for the latest warnings, such as fire or road closures.
  • Always check weather conditions for proper dress attire in the forests.
  • Tell someone you know where you are going and when you’ll return.
  • Check with local district offices before you cut dead or downed trees. Dead trees could provide animal habitat.
  • Stay away from areas along the sides of streams, rivers, lakes, and wet areas. Check with the ranger district for the proper distance.
  • Be aware of areas where trees may be weakened by storms, insect damage or fire.
  • Learn how to read a map and use a compass – and carry them both with you.

Additional guidelines for Christmas trees:

  • Most holiday tree permits are issued in November. Know your location, the weather, and your ability to traverse through snow.
  • Dress for the season. Always be prepared for the cold and snow, and start tree hunting early in the day to have plenty of daylight hours.
  • Bring emergency supplies, including water and food and a first-aid kit.
  • Remember to tell someone where you are going. Your cell phone may not work on many forests.
  • The tree you choose must be at least 200 feet from main roads, recreation sites and campgrounds, and stay away from areas along the sides of streams, rivers, lakes, and wet areas. Check with the ranger district for the proper distance.
  • Select a tree with a trunk six inches or less in diameter, and prepare to cut the tree no more than six inches above ground level.
  • Never cut a tall tree just for the top.
  • Select a tree from overstocked areas and thickets. Watch restricted areas. Cut only one tree per tag.
  • Attach your tree tag to harvested tree before placing in vehicle.
  • Bring a rope and tarp to move your tree from the harvest area to your vehicle.

What about other forest products, such as mushrooms and greenery?

A visit or call to your local forest or grassland district office is your first step. Tell them what you are interested in and how you can go about legally obtaining the items, what permits you need and what guidelines you must follow.

Our national forests and grasslands are here today for our use and enjoyment but also for the use and enjoyment of future generations. Help us make these vital natural resources a continuing legacy.

Remember: You are responsible for your own safety and for the safety of those around you.