Cutting Christmas trees in a National Forest is a tradition for many but the practice actually helps thin the forest by removing excess fuel, therefore reducing wildfire risk. The US Forest Service offers tree cutting permits to help manage wildfire-prone areas. Promotores Verdes has taken the opportunity to host Christmas Tree Cutting events, in collaboration with the US Forest Service, to help in this effort and educate the community.
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Many people think that cutting a Christmas tree is bad for the environment, that we should not cut down any trees but plant more trees instead. “Trees and forests are important for the health of our environment and our personal health,” says Zuza Bohley Chief Operating Officer of Promotoras Verdes. “When we cut smaller or younger trees, we help thin the forest, removing excess fuel [for wildfires]. The roots of the young trees will continue to harness water, prevent erosion, and provide nutrients to the older trees around them.”
The Promotores Verdes program helps thin forest areas because it removes younger trees that provide extra fuel in case of a wildfire and supports the growth and nutrition for older, more seasoned trees that can survive a fire. In addition, when individuals cut their own tree in US Forest Service designated areas, they are helping the forest service, which has limited personnel.
Mark Grandie, a forestry technician with the South Platte ranger district, explains that small trees in the forest floor are essentially called ladder fuel. If that little tree catches on fire from a small campfire, for example, it has the potential to reach bigger trees. Once the fire reaches the higher areas of the trees, it is harder for the rangers to control the fire. “When the public takes out these holiday trees and then [are] able to bring it back home,” says Grandie, “they are getting a service out of it, and they’re helping us by doing fuel mitigation.”
Tree-cutting permits are just $20 this year, says Grandie. “You come out to do this with your family and friends and are out here in the woods and able to get a nice tree that you can take back to your house. And it creates a lot of memories for your family.” He compares this with store-bought trees that can cost up to $200. “They’re good trees,” says Grandie, “but we really appreciate it when folks come on out to the woods.”
Permits will be available through December 14th and can be obtained by visiting www.recreation.gov. According to Grandie, most of the permits for weekends have been sold out but there are still quite a few weekday permits available. “The South Platte ranger district has two big areas for Christmas trees, the Buffalo Creek area and the Sugar Creek area, which is right next to the Rampart range,” says Grandie. “Plenty of trees out there to have nice Christmas trees to bring back home for you and your family.”
Promotores Verdes is offering 2 more Christmas tree cutting events on Saturday, December 12th and on Sunday the 13th. They offer 50 complimentary tree cutting permits for families of 4th and 5th graders. For more information about how to participate in Promotores Verdes and its family activities, you can follow them on Facebook at “Promotores Verdes”, call their helpline at 1-800-500-4668, or visit www.afcanatura.org.