CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Nothing puts you in the holiday spirit like a freshly cut Christmas tree, but what are the guidelines and rules when it comes to chopping one down?

Freshly cut Christmas trees can be costly if you buy them from a farm or a store, but if you want to cut costs and cut one down yourself, there are some rules to follow.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, most national forests allow users to harvest trees for personal use such as firewood and Christmas trees, but you must have a Forest Service-issued permit and you must follow specific guidelines. These guidelines can vary depending on what forest you are in.

There are some specific guidelines for cutting down Christmas trees such as:

  • Most holiday tree permits are issued in November, so it is important to know your location, the weather, and your ability to traverse through snow.
  • 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, such as water food, and a first-aid kit.
  • Remember to tell someone where you are going. Your cell phone may not work in many forests.
  • The tree you pick has to 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 the harvested tree before placing it in the vehicle.
  • Bring a rope and tarp to move your tree from the harvest area to your vehicle

It is important to follow these guidelines when it comes to cutting down trees:

  • Contact the forest district office that is nearest you to get a permit for home firewood, Christmas tree, and tree-cutting instructions.
  • Wood or Christmas trees cannot be sold. Permits must be in your possession at all times while you are in the forest.
  • Contact each forest district office for specific dates, maps, times, and accessibility.
  • Before heading to the park, check the 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 are 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 near 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.

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