Save money this Christmas, cut your own tree

CLE ELUM, Wash. – With Christmas tree prices skyrocketing up to 30 percent more, KAPP KVEW’s Madeleine Hagen set out on an adventure to save money by cutting her own tree, with the help of her husband of course.

There are several forests in the Pacific Northwest where you can cut your own Christmas tree. Hagen visited the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, but permits are also available for the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie area, Umatilla National Forest and many others.

The USFS encourages people to buy a permit online or from a local vendor in the area you’ll be cutting your tree.

Hagen and her family drove north of Cle Elum Lake, land where cutting a tree is allowed.

You’ll want to check USFS maps to make sure you’re in the right area for harvesting a tree.

You cannot cut down a tree on wildlife reserves, timber sales operations, private land, or recreational areas like campgrounds. Additionally, Christmas tree harvesting is not allowed within 150 feet of streams, ponds, lakes or wetlands.

The best way to enjoy your adventure is to create a plan ahead of time, pack plenty of warm clothes, snacks and water, and have a reliable car as conditions can change quickly in higher elevations.

In the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, you cannot cut a tree taller than 15 feet, and you should not leave a stump longer than six inches; make sure you have a tape measure handy if you’re cutting down a tall tree.

Guidelines vary by forest; you can find requirements here.

The USFS advises tree hunters to carry their find back to the car, not drag, in order to preserve branches.

Of course, make sure it’s secure in or on top of your car and be sure to give it plenty of water once you’re home to reduce fire risk.