MUNISING - Cutting your own holiday tree from national forest land is not only a great way to save money, it's also a great way to have a good time.
The Hiawatha National Forest offers "tree tags" to the public for $5 each, which allow you to search for the perfect holiday tree, cut it down and drag it out of the woods. The tags are actually permits, which are required on the federal forest for the removal of live trees for personal use.
Autumn Jauck, a visitor services specialist with the Hiawatha National Forest's Munising Ranger District, said there are typically numerous requests for the tree cutting permits each year.
"Usually, we get quite a few," Jauck said. "In fact, we're already getting some for this year and they'll go right up to the day before Christmas."
The forest service began its tree tag sales for this holiday season Nov. 21.
Hunting through the woods for that perfect holiday tree, cutting it down, bringing it home and decorating it can provide a great family outing, harkening back to the days in decades past when such holiday tree cutting was the norm. Don't forget the hot chocolate.
"It's pretty popular," Jauck said, referring to the general response from the public to the activity.
Tree tags are available from district offices and maps are handed out showing areas restricted from cutting, including the Big Island Lake and Rock River Canyon wilderness areas. Maps should also be consulted to make sure cutting is taking place on federal forest lands of the Hiawatha National Forest, or Ottawa National Forest, in the western Upper Peninsula.
Other restrictions for cutting are in effect including:
- Cut only balsam and spruce trees; no pine
- No cutting from tree plantations, a timber salvage area, adjacent to roads, lakes, campgrounds or other developed or dispersed recreation sites.
- No cutting of trees over 20 feet tall, unless otherwise specified on the permit
- Do not cut a large tree simply to obtain the top
- No cutting of any tree within 100 feet of a lake
- Only one tree may be harvested per tag. There is a limit of five tree per person per season
- Each tree must be tagged prior to being transported
- Stumps be cut to lower than a foot from the ground
- All branches left will be cut to lie within a foot of the ground
- All slash from the tree cutting must be removed from the cleared portion of roads or trails
- Gathering trees for commercial resale is not permitted
When obtaining a tree tag, rangers will provide a copy of the map, cutting guidelines and suggestions for flame-proofing your holiday tree.
For more information, contact the U.S. Forest Service ranger station nearest you. Hiawatha National Forest ranger stations, where tree tags are available include: Manistique 341-5666 (Wednesdays only); Munising 387-2512; Rapid River 474-6442; St Ignace 643-7900; or Sault Ste Marie 635-5311(Tuesday, Thursday and Friday only).
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.