Christmas Tree permits can help reduce wildfire risk

Federal land management agencies throughout the nation are offering a festive way for residents to reduce wildfire risk.

The USFS Christmas Tree Permit program gives people an opportunity to discover the national forests in interesting ways, while offering a Christmas tree at a cheap price. The agency lists 80 permit areas for forests from California to New Hampshire, each contributing to forest thinning programs.

The BLM also sells permits for trees, both online and in-person. The permit is valid through December 25. Check at and search for your area; cost per tree permit is $5 and a map and permit will be provided.

“For every tree that is found, cut and carried home as a holiday fixture, you’re also contributing to overall forest health,” according to the page. “Christmas tree permits are an opportunity for citizens to help thin densely populated stands of small-diameter trees – the perfect size for a Christmas tree.”

Cutting a Christmas tree
Cutting a Christmas tree — photo courtesy Curry Coastal Pilot

Forest thinning, or reducing the fuels beneath a forest’s tree canopy, contributes to a forest’s health by reducing resource competition. Trees growing too close together have to compete for nutrients, water, and sunlight, leading to weaker trees that are more susceptible to disease, insect infestations, or drought. These weaker trees can also contribute to future wildfire spread.

Western conifer forests have a historic relationship with fire. Fires long have burned the understory of forests, clearing out smaller brush and low branches. Modern-day treatments such as forest thinning and prescribed fire, replicate these historic fires by removing brush, lower tree limbs, and smaller trees (many of which make perfect Christmas trees).

BLM Christmas tree program
BLM Christmas tree program

“Venturing into a local national forest to find that special tree is an experience that creates treasured family memories and stories,” said U.S.  Forest Service Chief Randy Moore. “It is through these experiences that people establish important connections to the forest that can lead to a lifetime of adventures and instill a commitment to stewardship.”

Permits from the USFS usually run $10 to $15. Check here to buy a permit from a national forest near you.

The annual Christmas tree market is one of the ways that a profitable “small tree market” can create carbon-beneficial forest management. Berkeley research from 2021 found that promoting innovative uses of wood residues can support extensive wildfire hazard reduction and maximize carbon benefits in California’s forests. Read the full scientific article here.


12/16/2023 — Update from California: The nice folks on the Stanislaus had to go rescue a Tesla cyber-truck driver who was out looking for a tree. The video would make a nice ad for Ford trucks.  WATCH IT HERE.


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5 thoughts on “Christmas Tree permits can help reduce wildfire risk”

    1. I seem to remember at a Refuge I worked at where I was a Forest Tech (FIRE) having folks pay $25-35 to pick up as much wood as they could after an RX burn

      So why not? Probably cheaper than a traditional, church , or even a Boy Scout tree lot!!

  1. I would say that 99% of all christmas tree cutters go no further than 200 yards off any given road. Factor that in with the limited amount of permits given and the species that are cut. Christmas tree cutting does nothing but minimally prep roads for the next burnout.

  2. Where I worked in Northern California, white fir seedlings came up as thick as fleas on a dog’s back. I was in timber management and thought thinning them would be good for stand development and fuel reduction. That’s much better management than taking out seed trees.


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