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Boreal Community Media

Gathering Holiday Greens - A fun outing on Superior National Forest

Nov 16, 2017 05:42AM ● By Editor
From the Superior National Forest - U.S. Forest Service - November 15, 2017

Cutting your own Christmas tree or balsam boughs on the Superior National Forest can be a festive outing during the holidays. The ritual of hiking through the woods with your family and friends to choose your personal tree or boughs can greatly enrich the holiday season.  

Remember to obtain a permit at a Superior National Forest office before you go. A permit to cut one Christmas tree on the Superior National Forest costs $5.00 and may be purchased at any Forest office. Two Christmas tree permits are allowed per household per year. A "personal use" permit for gathering balsam boughs on the Superior National Forest allows for enough boughs to make approximately 5 door-size wreaths and costs $20.00.  If you plan to gather boughs, it’s best to contact the Ranger District office closest to the area where you plan to collect greens. Superior National Forest office hours generally are Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 4:30 pm, with the exception of federal holidays. Permits and maps may be obtained by mail but you must allow time for a check to travel through the mail and materials to be returned. For a printable flyer and additional information, visit the Superior National Forest web site at:  

Fourth grade students may obtain a free Christmas tree permit through the Every Kid In A Park Program. The Every Kid In A Park program is an initiative to get kids and families into our national forests and parks. Fourth grade students can go to the Every Kid In A Park website, complete some on-line activities, and print a voucher good for a special Fourth Grade Pass which can be picked up at participating federal agency offices, including the Forest Service. In addition to enabling fourth graders to receive a pass that allows free access to federal lands, the pass (or the printed voucher) also allows fourth graders to get a free permit for their family to harvest a Christmas tree on a national forest. See the website for details:

There are a few things to know before you go out to gather boughs or cut a Christmas tree. Be sure you know where Superior National Forest lands are. Parcels of state, county, tribal and private lands are intermixed with national forest lands within the Forest boundary.  Visitor maps of the Superior National Forest which show land ownership are available for $10.00 at all Forest offices and also via the internet. Cutting of trees and boughs is not allowed inside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, plantations, recreation areas, or administrative sites.

Cross-country travel by ATVs and other off-highway vehicles (OHVs) is not allowed in the National Forest; cross-country travel by snowmobile is allowed only if the snow is over 4 inches deep. See our website, or stop in one of our offices for complete rules on OHV and snowmobile use on the Forest.

Make your tree-cutting or gathering outing a safe and enjoyable experience by following these tips: 

  • Arrive early at your cutting area as it may take longer than you think to find that special tree. Bring snacks and water as well.
  • Check the weather outlook and be ready for changing conditions.  Carry tire chains, shovel, flashlights, and blankets in your vehicle, plus rope to tie down your tree. Many national forest roads are not maintained or snowplowed during the winter, so be sure that your vehicle is equipped for winter travel and has a full tank of gas.
  • Wear proper winter clothing and carry extras in case you get wet. You might be warm, dry, and comfortable when you start, but you may get tired and cold as the day wears on.
  • Let someone know where you are going and when to expect you back. Check in when you return.
  • Don’t rely on your cell phone for directions or communications as it may not work in many areas of the Forest.
  • Keep aware of your location.  Bring a map, compass, or GPS technology and know how to use it.
  • Watch for other traffic on the road and on the trails and be aware that hunting season may still be underway.