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Guidelines for harvesting a Christmas tree in the Boise National Forest

Posted at 3:58 PM, Dec 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-02 14:27:28-05

BOISE, Idaho — A classic family tradition in Idaho includes loading up the car and driving into the woods to cut down the perfect Christmas tree.

"Families have been harvesting in the forest for generations," said Venetia Gempler of the Boise National Forest. "It is a great way to go out and have some family fun and kick off the holiday season."

But there are guidelines people need to know about to ensure a safe adventure into the Boise National Forest and that starts with being prepared for winter conditions.

“Make sure you have winter supplies, is your car ready for winter travel? Let someone know where you are going and when you are going to be back," said Gempler. "There is no cell phone service in the forest."

The first thing people need to know is they need to secure a permit before leaving town, permits can be found at and can be purchased for ten dollars for a maximum of three trees.

The website also lists everything people need to know to follow the rules and one of the biggest ones is making sure you are in the national forest and not on private property.

"You can’t cut trees in campgrounds and you should be 300 feet away from roads or any stream and that is to protect those natural resources," said Gempler. "You can’t cut a Christmas tree over 12-feet high, we ask that you cut it six inches from the ground, and once you get home cut it again so that when you put that tree in water it is going to absorb that water and last a lot longer."

The Boise National Forest around Idaho City has been by far the most popular area for people to harvest their trees, but this area is also 2.6 million acres ranging from Banks to the Garden Valley area to Lowman.

Here is a map of the Boise National Forest.

The Boise National Forest has also just released upddatedd winter travel maps that can be downloaded and used with smartphones, this is a cool feature as it allows people to track where they are in the forest and drop pins even when they don't have cellular service.