Let the hunt for the perfect (and cheap) Christmas tree begin.
Permits are now on sale for U.S. Forest Service trees. The permits allow buyers to venture out into select areas of federally owned forest and chop down and bring home their chosen evergreen.
The permits cost $5 each and can be purchased at all Willamette National Forest District offices as well as at some local vendors. Maps that outline the harvest areas come with the permits. Households can purchase up to five permits.
"Going into the woods to find the family Christmas tree is a great way to experience your national forest," said Jeff Trejo, a forest products program manager for the Willamette forest.
Different permits for trees on a single local U.S. Bureau of Land Management site, located this year between Cottage Grove and Lorane, will go on sale on Friday. Those permits cost $5.50 and households are limited to three trees. BLM permits for Lane County will be sold exclusively at the agency's office in Springfield.
Most trees under 12 feet tall in designated areas are fair game; some rarer species are excluded.
The program is typically popular in Lane County, although sales were down last year. Almost 3,000 Forest Service permits were sold for the Willamette forest in 2011, down from past annual averages of more than 4,000. And about 90 BLM permits were sold, slightly below the 100 permits the agency averages.
Sales are "dependent on a lot of factors," including the weather, Willamette forest spokeswoman Katie Isacksen said this week.
Forest officials warn tree hunters to not be fooled by pleasant weather in the valley when heading into the mountains, where they might encounter freezing temperatures and snow.
Officials recommend bringing a handsaw or axe, shovel, winter clothing, blankets, safety equipment, tire chains, extra food and drinking water, and a first aid kit. Because tree-cutting and travel may take longer than anticipated, they also recommend getting an early start and leaving the woods "well before dark."
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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