For $5, you can cut your own Christmas tree

There’s a Christmas tree shortage across the country, and it’s been looming for awhile. It started during the Great Recession, when growers had too many trees after planting an excess in the early 2000s.

Between the recession and the oversupply, many growers exited the market. We’re seeing the results now, and the shortage could be extended because it takes several years for trees to be harvest-ready.

It’s going to mean higher prices and limited supply across the country. Because of the shortage, the National Christmas Tree Association estimates tree prices will be going up between 5 and 10 percent across the U.S.

If that concerns you, consider cutting your own tree on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service. For $5, you can get a permit to cut your own.

Chris Pingel of the Medford BLM says the agency is on pace to sell more permits this year than previous years. It’s a great way to have an adventure with your family, experience the bounty of our forests, and appreciate your Christmas tree all the more, he said.

It’s a family tradition for many people, such as Cy Carrigan of Medford. His family turns their tree expedition into a full-day experience, complete with their dog. They have a favorite spot near Union Creek for cutting their tree, then they go to Farewell Bend Sno-Park above Union Creek, where their son can sled and Cy and his wife can relax by the huge fireplace.

Tree permits are available at any BLM or Forest Service station and also in local sporting goods stores such as Blackbird Shopping Center. You’ll get a map with the permit that shows areas where you can harvest.

The main restrictions are: No cutting in wilderness areas, and near streams or trails. Do not cut within fenced or posted tree plantations, and do not cut within 200 feet of state highways, campgrounds and other developed areas.

You can cut a tree shorter than 12 feet tall, and you have to pick one that is within 8 feet of another similarly sized tree. Once you find a suitable tree, cut it so the stump is less than six inches tall, and prune any branches still attached. After you cut it, attach your permit tag.

You’ll want to find a tree that isn’t crowded by others, so you’ll have branches all around your tree. You may want to dust the tree of snow so you can check out the branches. Make sure you can identify the right kind of tree to bring home. Noble firs and Douglas-firs are popular. Stay away from the hemlock with its sharp needles.

Before you go, be sure to pack extra blankets, flashlights, food and water. A first-aid kit and tire chains are smart, too. Always let someone know where you are going. A good tool to avoid getting lost in the woods is the Avenza Map app, a mobile app that uses your device’s built-in GPS to track your location on any map (among many other neat features). Also be prepared for unexpected weather, and check conditions before you leave home.

— Jefferson Reeder is a freelance writer living in Medford. Reach him at

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