Karel Ancona: Cut down your own memories

Man carrying a Christmas tree after cutting it down at a tree farm.

Man carrying a Christmas tree after cutting it down at a tree farm.

As one of the last generation of “children” to be raised in the midst of national forests at U.S. Forest Service stations, growing up was magical. We always had miles of pristine forests, rivers and lakes to play in, and before the days of insane litigation and liability, enjoyed our share of impromptu helicopter and fire engine rides.

We spent summer days on patrol with dad on Lake Pillsbury on the Mendocino, hiking alongside dad and his trusty horse Gabe on patrol on the Angeles and finally landed at my last childhood stop on the Lassen.

We have family pictures with Smokey Bear, as dad was on the fire prevention side before moving to law enforcement.

Our family made many Christmas tree cutting memories. Every year was an adventure. One year mom insisted on a juniper tree, which we discovered left an aroma vaguely similar to cat pee wafting through the house. There was the year I got my finger slammed in the truck door and First-Aid included my hand being shoved into the ice-cold water of a snow-covered stream. My finger is still crooked.

Possibly the most unique year involved Dad loading myself, my sister, our labrador Jake, and my six-month-pregnant mom into an aluminum boat to traverse the expanse of Lake Pillsbury where, once on the opposite snow-covered shore, we found the perfect tree. Of course trees never look as big standing as when they’re on the ground. That tree was longer than the boat, and I think we got home intact thanks to help from a few angels.

Living in the desert like we do, doesn’t automatically inspire visions of tree cutting. But I’m here to tell you, for $5 per permit (BLM) and $10 (Forest Service), you can make some memories.

Bureau of Land Management began selling permits Nov. 14 and Forest Service begins selling permits Monday. Forest Service typically runs out of permits within two weeks, and BLM issues theirs on a first-come, first-served basis. So when purchasing tree permits, sooner is better than later.

BLM allows 10 permits per person for personal use and Forest Service allows two. Special use permits are issued by both agencies for commercial resale, and Forest Service conducts some of its business through vendors who cut for sale at various locations, more as a convenience to community.

According to information at blm.gov, this is the second year Nevada fourth grade students who so desire can receive one free Christmas tree permit as part of the U.S. Department of Interior’s “Every Kid in a Park Program,” an initiative that makes access to federal lands free for a year. Free permits are available to every student with a valid fourth-grade pass, available at www.everykidinapark.gov .

Before you head out, remember you will need a tree stand, and the tree will require daily watering. Tree fresh products are available to extend the life of your tree, which is a great step toward preventing fires. Even if it’s too late to get one this year, you can make it a New Year’s resolution to create Christmas tree cutting memories next year.

Maps of cutting areas will be provided with each permit, and be sure to review safety tips and other general information.

Bureau of Land Management locations serving Carson City, Gardnerville, Fallon and surrounding areas are:

BLM-Carson City District Office, 5665 Morgan Mill Road, Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; (775) 885-6000; Cal Ranch, 2035 N. Carson St., Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; (775) 461-2213; Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce , 1477 Hwy.395 N., Ste. A, Gardnerville (inside museum building), Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.to 5 p.m.; (775)782-8144; UNR Cooperative Extension Office-Fallon,111 Sheckler Road, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., ( 775) 423-5121.

Forest Service locations are:

Carson District Office, 1536 S. Carson St., Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; (775) 882-2766; Markleeville General Store, 14799 Hwy. 89, Markleeville, Calif.., daily, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (530) 694-2448. Permits available until sold out; Hope Valley Café and Market, 14655 Hwy. 88, Woodfords Canyon, Calif. 8 a.m. To 5 p.m.; (530) 694-2323; Buckboard General Store, 2160 Hwy. 208, Smith Valley, Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. And Sunday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; (775) 465-2289.

For more information, visit www.blm.gov or www.usda.gov .

General guidelines:

Contact the forest district office nearest you to obtain a permit for home firewood, Christmas tree and tree cutting instructions; wood or Christmas trees can’t be sold. Permits must be in your possession at all times while on the forest; contact each forest district office for specific dates, maps, times, and accessibility; before heading out, check the local forest for the latest warnings, such as fire or road closures; always check weather conditions for proper dress attire in the forests; tell someone you know where you’re going and when you’ll return; check with local district offices before you cut dead or downed trees. Dead trees could provide animal habitat; stay away from areas along the sides of streams, rivers, lakes, and wet areas. Check with the ranger district for the proper distance; be aware of areas where trees may be weakened by storms, insect damage or fire; learn how to read a map and use a compass – and carry them both with you.

Additional guidelines for Christmas trees:

Know your location, the weather, and your ability to traverse through snow; dress for the season. Always be prepared for the cold and snow, and start tree hunting early in the day to have plenty of daylight hours; bring emergency supplies, including water and food and a first-aid kit; remember to tell someone where you’re going. Your cell phone may not work on many forests; the tree you choose must be at least 200 feet from main roads, recreation sites and campgrounds, and stay away from areas along the sides of streams, rivers, lakes, and wet areas. Check with the ranger district for the proper distance.

Select a tree with a trunk six inches or less in diameter, and prepare to cut the tree no more than six inches above ground level; never cut a tall tree just for the top; select a tree from overstocked areas and thickets. Watch restricted areas. Cut only one tree per tag; attach your tree tag to harvested tree before placing in vehicle; bring a rope and tarp to move your tree from the harvest area to your vehicle.

For information visit, www.fs.fed.us/visit/know-before-you-go/tree-cutting .


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment