Christmas tree permits available

It’s that time of year where you can chop down your own tree within the Black Hills National Forest.

Christmas tree tags became available Nov. 12 and will remain available through Dec. 24

Each year, the Black Hills National Forest sells approximately 3,000 Christmas tree permits, said Scott Jacobson, public affairs officer for the Black Hills National Forest.

“We’re not sure why it started, but the allowing of people to cut smaller trees for Christmas does help thin the forest, which has several positive ecological benefits,” Jacobson said. “A thinner forest provides more water and nutrients for existing trees, and a thinner forest makes stands more resilient to insects and disease. Cutting shorter trees reduces ‘ladder fuels that can carry fire to the crowns of tree stands, thus minimizing opportunity for devastating crown fires that can be ‘stand replacing fires.’”

Funds collected for the Christmas tree sales are returned back to the recreation program for the forest service. This was a recent change, Jacobson said.

Each year, with a tag costing $10, the forest service typically makes $30,000 from the endeavor, Jacobson said.

Students in the fourth grade are exempt from the $10 cost.

White spruce, ponderosa pine and western juniper trees are available and can be cut down in many parts of the Forest.

Each tree permit comes with a handout with guidance regarding appropriate tree removal. Trees cannot be cut in developed recreation sites, Forest Service administrative sites, active timer sales, the Black Hills Experimental Forest near Rochford, the Black Elk Wilderness, the Beaver Park area near Sturgis or within Spearfish Canyon.

A maximum of five permits is allowed per person, and the maximum allowable height of a cut tree is 20 feet. Permits require that the entire tree is cut, leaving no more than six inches of the stump and that unused branches are cut so that they lay flat on the ground.

The adhesive tag provided must be attached to the tree before it is removed from the cutting area. A citation can be issued for possession of a cut-but-untagged tree, even if the tag is available in person or in the vehicle.

Trees should be placed in water as soon as possible to keep needles fresh. Once indoors, trees should be kept away from stoves, heaters or heating ducts.

After Christmas, trees should be disposed of properly as yard waste. Do not dump used trees on National Forest land.

There are no refunds for uncut trees, and Forest Service offices will be closed on Thanksgiving.

Tags are available by mail from the Forest Supervisor’s Office, 1019 N. 5th Street, Custer, SD, 57730. Enclose a check or money order in the amount of $10 for each tree permit, up to a maximum of five trees per individual as well as a self-addressed stamped envelope. The Forest Service will mail tags and cutting instructions.

Locally, trees are available at the Hell Canyon Ranger District in Custer located at 1019 North 5th Street, Mystic Ranger District located at 8221 Mount Rushmore Road in Rapid City, Heart of the Hills Exxon at 201 Main Street in Hill City and Heart of the West Conoco at 632 Main Street in Hill City.

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