Tis The Season

Angie Ripple  |   Wednesday Dec. 1st, 2021

For me, growing up in Montana meant searching for and cutting down a Christmas tree each year with my family. We lived close to plenty of pine trees that were available for us to cut down and bring home. My dad would lead the charge to the forest and did the majority of the searching, and all of the cutting and hauling. My brother and I were along for the ride. There were no tags to pay for and pick up—there really were no rules for this search. 

In 2021’s Bozeman, a permit is required to cut down a Christmas tree in the Custer Gallatin National Forest, and there are a few key things that are important to know before you acquire one. Permits have historically been $5 each, but as was the case last year, are free again this season with a small transaction fee when purchasing online at Recreation.gov. Any fourth-grader from the area can also get a free permit through Every Kid Outdoors at Recreation.gov. According to the Custer Gallatin National Forest Service, local vendors will no longer carry permits, and district offices will have limited availability. Anyone looking to get a permit this way is encouraged to call ahead. The Forest Service also provides a map to let you know which roads are open, and the permit itself has rules and guidelines laid out for you.

I have memories of trekking over snowy hills in search of a tree in Northwestern Montana. The best trips were the ones when we remembered to bring our sleds, adding another level of adventure and fun to the trip. Each year, searching for a family Christmas tree provides another opportunity to bundle up in our winter gear, breathe the crisp, cold air and be together in the forest.

Here are just a couple of tips to help you avoid some of the folly my family has experienced when cutting our own Christmas tree: Look closely at the branches before you cut—we once accidentally brought home a tree with a bird’s nest in it… and didn’t find it until we took all the lights and decorations OFF! One of the Forest Service permit tips for keeping your tree fresh is to add sugar to the water. Be sure to add only a little sugar if you choose to use this method; when we tried this, we overdid it and ended up with a tree that stunk up our entire living room. The smell was so bad we had to put the tree outside before Christmas! Honestly, these are some of our best memories of Christmas trees past, but this year we may just make our memories from the Cashman Christmas Tree Lot.

Happy Holidays! I hope your memories carry you through this time of year, and that you create some magic for yourself and your loved ones.

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