Charleston, WV (WOWK) – One fun way to find a Christmas tree is to cut your own in a national forest. People can purchase Christmas tree permits through recreation.gov/tree-permits, which allows them to go to the listed national forest of their choosing and chop down their own trees.
Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois is one of those spots.
The permits help maintain the forests’ overall health by thinning out the densely populated stands of small-diameter trees. Not only is the practice environmentally conscious, but the trees are also affordable.
A permit is required to cut any Christmas tree on National Forest land. Permits can be purchased for $5. One permit is allowed per household and is limited to one tree per permit.
Need to Know
Where to Cut Your Tree
- Do not cut on private land, in Wildernesses, designated campgrounds, special areas, recreation sites, or existing tree plantations.
- Do not cut in active timber sales or areas that have been planted with new trees.
Selecting Your Tree
- Each forest has limitations on the size of the tree you can cut and the species of trees that are permitted. See below to help you measure and choose a tree that meets your permit’s guidelines.
- Tree Height: 12 feet maximum
- Take the whole tree. Do not remove the top of the tree; cut down the entire tree
- If snow is on the ground, remove it from around the stump so you can accurately measure the stump and tree height.
Planning Your Trip
How to Plan Your Trip
- Before you leave home, be sure to measure the space where you plan to place the tree in your home (height and width), and measure the space in your vehicle where you will be transporting the tree.
- You must print and bring your Christmas Tree Permit with you.
- Cell service may be spotty or unavailable. Be sure someone knows where you are and when to expect you back.
- Check the latest weather conditions, forest warnings and road closures before you leave on your trip.
- Bring a map with you. Don’t rely on GPS because it may not be up-to-date with forest service roads.
- Dress warmly and take extra dry clothes. Expect winter weather, including cold temperatures, snow and winds.
- Forest Roads are not be plowed. Carry tire chains, shovel(s) and a tow chain. Be sure your vehicle has a full tank of gas. Bring a spare key and give it to someone else in your party. Don’t get locked out of your car! Park in areas so that traffic can get by safely, and do not block gates.
- Bring plenty of food and water with you as well as an overnight survival kit in case you become stranded.
- Start your day early. Be sure to find your tree and leave the woods before dark.
- We don’t recommend bringing your pets but, if you do, they must be on a leash.
Helpful Cutting Tips
- Carry your tree carefully out of the woods. Dragging the tree will rub off needles and bark.
- If the tree is too big to transport inside of your vehicle, wrap it in canvas to prevent wind damage.
- Once home, cut the bottom of the trunk off and place the freshly cut trunk in a bucket of water. Replenish water. If storing your tree outside for a few days before putting it in the house, keep it in an area protected from the wind, such as the north or east side of your house or under a shaded tree.
- Tools you might want to consider bringing with you include a measuring tape to ensure you select a tree that fits in your home; handsaw to cut your tree; gloves to protect your hands; boots to protect your feet; a tarp to sit on and/or to move your tree once it’s cut; and rope or straps to secure your tree to your vehicle.
- Choose a tree from a dense forested area, which will give the remaining trees more space to grow.
- Cut the leftover branches from the stump and scatter them.
Contact The Forest Office:
Hidden Springs Ranger District
602 N First Street Route 45 North Vienna, IL 62995(618) 658-2111
Mississippi Ranger District
521 N. Main Street Jonesboro, IL 62952(618) 833-8576
Shawnee Forest Supervisor’s Office
50 Hwy 145 South P.O. Box 505 Harrisburg, IL 62946(618) 253-7114