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Harvesting your Christmas tree

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Beginning Nov. 21, Christmas tree permits became available at all seven ranger district offices and numerous vendors across the Custer Gallatin National Forest. Forest Service offices in Bozeman, West Yellowstone, Livingston, Gardiner, Red Lodge, Billings and Ashland will have permits available from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday – Friday for $5 each, with a limit of three permits per household. 
“Cutting a Christmas tree is a great, family-fun tradition for many,” said Marna Daley, public affairs officer for the Custer Gallatin National Forest. “Dress in layers for changing weather conditions, be prepared for emergencies, and enjoy spending time outdoors with friends and family.”  
Those with a permit may cut a Christmas tree anywhere on the Custer Gallatin National Forest except in campgrounds, trailheads, designated wilderness areas, developed recreation sites, posted timber sale units, recently planted locations and administrative sites.

Permits are also valid for any national forest in the Northern Region, which includes all of Montana, northern Idaho and portions of North and South Dakota. General guidelines for cutting a tree include the following:
– No tree cutting is allowed within 50 feet of any stream, lake, or wetland. 
– Only trees 15 feet tall or less may be cut.
– Cut your tree as close to the ground as possible and below the lowest live limb. A remaining stump height of six inches or less is ideal. 
– After cutting your tree, attach the purchased permit to a lower limb near the trunk for transporting home.
– “Topping” trees, or cutting the top off trees, deforms any future growth and leaves a visual eyesore. Take the entire tree or choose another one.
– Trees help protect watersheds, provide habitat for wildlife, and contribute to beautiful scenery. Keep these values in mind when selecting a tree.

A permit can also be purchased for gathering personal-use boughs. Permits, maps, forest road access updates and tree species identification guides are available at each ranger district office. For more information, please contact any Custer Gallatin National Forest office or for general forest information visit online at 

Permits are also available at these community businesses: 
Belgrade:  Town and Country Grocery and Belgrade True Value
Bozeman:  Owenhouse Ace Hardware (downtown store bicycle shop and W. Main St. store), Murdoch’s Ranch & Home Supply
Four Corners:  Murdoch’s Ranch & Home Supply
Big Sky: Big Sky Conoco
West Yellowstone:  Corner Cenex
Livingston:  Ace Hardware and True Value
Big Timber: Conoco Town Pump
Red Lodge:  Sylvan Peak Mountain Shop, True Value Hardware
Absorkee: Rockin J Gas Station
Billings: Cabela’s & Ace Hardware (Heights and Zimmerman Trail Road locations).
Ekalaka: Carter County Conservation District

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