Making memories hunting for holiday greenery

Posted: Friday, December 11, 2009

Harvesting a tree for the holidays might just be one of the most recognized and practiced traditions around. It's one that ushers forth memories of family outings into the woods, often in the snow and cold, to hunt down a little piece of perfection.

Abby Lowell / Juneau Empire
Abby Lowell / Juneau Empire

Er, sort of.

Okay, so it's not always so fluffy. Yes, there's bound to be a bit of whining, some wet extremities, something sap-covered and certainly the frustration that comes with hauling the aforementioned tree back home (how did it get so big anyway?).

So what is allowed locally? And, what's on the list of no-no's?

Pete Griffin, district ranger on the Tongass National Forest, had a few recommendations for those looking to take home some fresh memories this year.

"First thing to keep in mind is to make sure (you're) not on private land," he said.

It's up to tree-cutters to make sure they're not in someone's backyard or on land that is within 50 feet of a hiking trail. Griffin said the Forest Service has identified some areas that are off limits: The Mendenhall Valley, the Auke Recreation area and the Lena Cove area.

But Griffin said all other national forest (provided it meets the above requirements) is fair game.

On the city side of things, the CBJ Tree Cutting Policy states that each Juneau household is allowed one holiday tree per year, which can be harvested for personal use, without a permit, from "municipal land, including along roadsides."

It is not legal to harvest a tree from "parks, recreation sites, scenic corridors, schools, residential subdivisions or public facilities."

And while it might be tempting, Griffin said it's best to leave those "bushy" trees that grow in muskeg alone.

"We try to discourage folks from doing that," he said. "Remember that trees growing in those areas are probably 80 to 100 years old. They might be pretty bushy and really pretty, but gosh, they're old growth too."

Griffin said any tree grown in an open area will be well formed.

When it comes to the type of tree, Griffin said he's preferred shore pine in the past. "They have longer needles and they hang on a little longer that those of spruce and hemlock."

And once cut, it's important to hydrate your tree as soon as possible. The National Christmas Tree Association says that although cut trees can remain fresh in a cool area, like the garage, for a few days, it's still important to keep the base submerged in a bucket of water. The association also says to set the tree up well away from heat sources and to monitor it for freshness as fire hazards can crop up with a dry tree.

For more information on cutting your own tree for the holidays go online to

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