SHERIDAN — It’s that time of year. People are furiously buying their turkeys for Thanksgiving, shops are bracing for the onslaught of shoppers purchasing gifts for loved ones and if one is listening to a radio station at just the right moment, one may catch Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” hit song.
With the holidays just around the corner, it’s time for many to go out and buy, order or find a Christmas tree. People in Sheridan County have the opportunity to venture into the Bighorn National Forest and cut a tree with the purchase of an orange permit from a local ranger district.
The permits costs $8 and are good for trees no taller than 10 feet. An additional permit is required for trees stretching more than 10 feet. One individual can purchase up to five permits.
While most of the Bighorn National Forest is open to Christmas tree cutting, there are some stipulations. Individuals can not fell trees within 300 feet of cabins, lodges, resorts, campgrounds, picnic grounds, administrative sites or within 100 feet of state highways. People are urged to leave stumps no higher than six inches, with all limbs removed and scattered. Topping a tree is prohibited as it leaves the tree susceptible to disease.
Matthew Riederer, contracting officer with the forest service, gave advice for people looking to find the best Christmas tree for the holiday season.
“The edges of meadows are sometimes good places to look, as you’re more likely to find a smaller tree with full branching,” Riederer said. Suzan Guilford, the U.S. Forest Service Powder River Ranger District public affairs officer, said that while there’s no real go-to spot that many people flock to to find a Christmas tree, winter conditions play a large role in where people choose to fell trees.
The Powder River Ranger District has seen an increase in the purchase of Christmas tree permits over the last few years. In 2014, 1,912 permits were sold and that number has increased each year, reaching 2,532 permits sold in 2017.
Riederer said there are approximately 640,640 forested acres in the Bighorn National Forest outside of the Cloud Peak Wilderness — where Christmas tree cutting is not allowed — so if everyone that purchases a permit cuts a tree, that is approximately one Christmas tree cut for every 253 acres.
So while the number of tress falling every holiday season is increasing, the felling of Christmas trees doesn’t have any significant effects on the environment.
“When you put everything in perspective, it really isn’t harmful,” Reiderer said. “It can actually be helpful in some situations, by removing trees that are encroaching on the meadows. But again, this is on a very small scale.”
So as the holidays near, and one is thinking about that corner of their house or apartment best situated for a Christmas tree, remember that the national forest has plenty of trees perfectly sized for that void.