Editor’s note: This article originally ran in the Dec. 19, 2014 edition of the Summit Daily News. It was been updated for this year’s tree cutting regulations.
Now that the November snow has started, the county begins its second act, a set change for our winter festivities. What’s better than a family outing and a little Christmas stewardship? Stop by the Dillon Ranger District office in Silverthorne and buy part of your Christmas decor from the White River National Forest. They are available now for $10.
Summit County is an open district this year. That means, with exception of ski areas, campgrounds, wilderness areas and developed forest land, you and your family can visit your favorite outdoor spot, choose a tree and help enhance the forest through tree thinning. You can make it a family tradition to honor and continue each year.
CHOOSING YOUR TREE
There are four types of trees that are legal to cut in Summit County: Subalpine fir, Douglas fir, Engelmann spruce and Lodgepole pine. It is prohibited to cut Colorado Blue Spruce.
• Your Christmas tree must not exceed 15 feet in height.
• You need to leave behind 6 inches or less diameter, as close to the ground as possible.
• Trim any branches from the stump left behind.
• 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 tree’s 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.
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.
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 a 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.
Have a safe and happy holiday season! Thank you for using the forest responsibly and saving our natural wonders for generations to come.
Jasmine Hupcey is the office and volunteer manager for Friends of the Dillon Ranger District. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the organization and volunteer opportunities, visit www.fdrd.org.