Do your part to keep our forests healthy: Cut a Christmas tree | SkyHiNews.com

Do your part to keep our forests healthy: Cut a Christmas tree

We were a little surprised this year when we received a press release from the Forest Service announcing its annual Christmas tree cutting event, which began on Saturday and continues through Dec. 9.

As the beetle kill epidemic rolls a red carpet across the hillsides, we expected the forest service to cut the number of permits available this year.

Amongst ourselves, we had discussed that this might not be the best year to follow the tradition of cutting a healthy tree for our living rooms.

But Brad Orr, Recreation Program Manager for the USDA Forest Service ” Rocky Mountain Region, said that this year’s cutting was not organized without thought to the current mountain pine beetle epidemic.

“I am always very interested in the environmental impacts of what we do,” Orr said. “And I can assure you that this is good forest management.”

But the newspaper wasn’t the first to ask him the question, he said.

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According to an internal Forest Service communication in November 2005, “Christmas Tree cutting is a management tool for forest health.” It continues:

– Thinning stands of new trees by removing some as Christmas trees reduces competition among tree species and helps to create healthier, more vigorous growing conditions for the remaining forest.

– Cutting Christmas trees is considered a form of treatment for reducing catastrophic wildfire risks. Taking out smaller trees or “fuel ladders” helps reduce potential wildfire activity or lessens fire intensity under normal conditions.

– We are more concerned with what is left on the land than what is taken off. There are too many trees per acre to keep forests and forest ecosystems healthy. Cutting Christmas trees helps to reduce overcrowding.

– Removing trees opens up areas so healthy grasses (and other forage for wildlife) can grow.

This weekend, hundreds of people participated in the Elk Creek Christmas Tree Cutting in an area chosen and managed by the Sulphur Ranger District. More than 700 trees were cut.

A 7-mile area of forest was chosen, roads and a parking area were cleared and about 15 forest service employees were on hand.

“My family participated and we hiked in about a mile to find our tree,” Orr said. “For many, this is just an opportunity to be outdoors.

“Since it covers such a large, managed area, we are not de-nuding the forest.”

The Sulphur Ranger District sells about 2,500 permits per year for Christmas trees.

Orr said that averages about one tree every 160 acres.

In the Fraser area, that includes contributing to the construction of fuel breaks.

In these days, we are all concerned about the health of our forest.

But, if you have been worried about cutting a Christmas tree this year because of the beetle epidemic, you can feel good knowing that you are actually doing your part toward healing our forests.

To get a Christmas tree permit, visit the Sulphur Ranger District office on Ten Mile Drive in Granby, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or buy a permit at the entrance gate of the Elk Creek Christmas tree cutting area. To get there, coming from Winter Park, turn left at the stoplight onto County Road 72 and follow the signs.

There is a limit of five trees per person and no tree over six inches in diameter may be cut. Trees must be cut by hand ” no chainsaws allowed.

For more information, call the Sulphur Ranger District at (970) 887-4100.

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