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Permits now available for finding the perfect Christmas tree in Idaho’s backcountry

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Photo and video provided by the Bureau of Land Management

IDAHO FALLS – Now that Halloween and Election Day are over, many families in eastern Idaho are already thinking about putting up the Christmas Tree.

The U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management are offering Christmas tree permits for those who want to hike the backcountry and find the perfect one for their family.

Permits first became available on Oct. 15.

Forest Service permits

Staff shortages at Forest Service offices are possible this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so rangers have created a new online option for customers at Recreation.gov.

Rick DeLappe, Recreation.gov program manager, hopes this service will provide an added convenience for customers and simplify the process.

“Customer Service is one of our core values and it just makes sense for the Forest Service to expand its Christmas Tree permit sales though this popular and secure online system,” DeLappe says in a news release.

A white search bar at the top of the page allows you to search for locations in the area you want to go. There is also a map showing locations throughout the state. Each forest will have specific guidelines and season dates for cutting a holiday tree.

“Being able to secure a permit in advance, while learning important details of where and what to cut will simplify this process for visitors.”

To purchase or learn more, click here.

Permits are still available through local ranger district offices and participating vendor locations. Visit the Caribou-Targhee National Forest ranger office at 1405 Hollipark Drive in Idaho Falls for more information or call (208) 557-5900.

Permits are $15. Fourth graders enrolled in the “Every Kid Outdoors” program can get a free permit.

BLM permits

Permits for trees on BLM land are available through the Upper Snake Field Office at 1405 Hollipark Drive in Idaho Falls, the Pocatello Field Office at 4350 South Cliffs Drive or at KJ’s Kwik Stop at 226 East 50 South in Malad.

Office hours in Idaho Falls and Pocatello are 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, with varying times at the Malad location. Call the Idaho Falls office at (208) 524-7500 for more information. You can also contact the Pocatello office at (208) 478-6340. The Malad location can be reached at (208) 478-6355.

The cost is $15 with a limit of one per family. Maps are available online showing different locations for tree hunting in each geographic area.

To purchase or learn more, click here.

Safety guidelines

Whether you purchase a permit through the forest service or BLM, officials are recommending you follow some basic guidelines while visiting the backcountry:

  • No topping of trees.
  • Cut below lowest live limb – Leave stumps no higher than six inches.
  • Avoid damage to other trees.
  • Drive only on existing roads. Don’t block traffic when you park. Comply with road closures.
  • Do not trespass on or through private land.
  • Stay on designated roads and respect private land. Some tree cutting areas may be inaccessible after a snowfall – early-season cutting is advisable.
  • Be safe and prepared. Check road and weather conditions before heading out. Make sure you have everything you need for an outdoor venture including warm clothes, food, water, and safety equipment. Let someone know where you’ll be going and when you plan to return. If you get stranded, call for help, and stay with your group and vehicle until help arrives.
  • Keep in mind that hunting seasons are usually open during these times, so wearing brighter colors may be advisable.

Remember to properly dispose of your tree once the holidays are over. Most waste disposal companies offer special pick up times. Never try to burn the tree in your fireplace or woodstove — a chimney fire could result.

Consider composting or cutting for firewood, if those are options available to you.

Watch the video above for more tips and guidelines.

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