With the holiday season approaching, the national forests in Western Washington are selling permits to cut Christmas trees.
The permits, costing $5-$20 depending on the forest and size, are available at Forest Service offices and local vendors.
Officials from Gifford Pinchot, Olympic and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forests said getting a tree early before snow falls usually means better access on forest roads. Most trees are reached by narrow, unplowed mountain roads. High-clearance vehicles are often required along with tire chains and a shovel.
Because higher elevation areas receive heavy snowfall, tree cutters should call the forest office nearest their destination for the latest in road and weather updates. The three forests also provide condition reports on their websites.
Because weather and road conditions can change quickly, forest officials offer these safety tips:
• Be prepared for cold and changing winter weather conditions.
• Carry tire chains, shovel, flashlights, and blanket in your vehicle.
• Bring extra food and hot beverages.
• Arrive at your cutting area early to avoid travel in the dark.
• Wear proper winter clothing and carry extras in case you get wet.
• Most National Forest roads are not maintained or plowed during the winter. Drive safely and slowly, turn on your lights and watch for ice.
• Tell someone where you are going and when to expect you back.
Here are details for each of the national forests within an easy drive for South Sound residents.
GIFFORD PINCHOT NATIONAL FOREST.
Permit cost: $5 per tree. There is a limit of five permits per household.
Getting a permit: They can be purchased at all ranger district offices, the forest headquarters in Vancouver, Wash. (360-891-5000), and at several vendor locations. The Cowlitz Valley Ranger District office is in Randle (360-497-1100).
Of note: The Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument is closed to tree cutting. Tree cutting also is prohibited in wildernesses, developed campgrounds, administrative sites, within 300 feet of streams, on private or state-owned lands within national forest boundaries and in other posted areas.
MOUNT BAKER-SNOQUALMIE NATIONAL FOREST
Permit cost: $10 each, one tree per permit, with a tree height limit of 12 feet. Trees taller than 12 feet require a tall tree permit for $20. The permits are for 2012 and nonrefundable. They are on sale through Dec. 24.
Getting a permit: They are sold at the Outdoor Recreation Information Center inside the Seattle REI store Tuesdays-Saturdays. You also can get a permit at the forest offices in Enumclaw (360-825-6585) and North Bend (425-888-1421).
Cutting areas: They are located on national forest lands in the eastern portions of Pierce, King, Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties. Maps and information about cutting areas are provided where permits are sold.
OLYMPIC NATIONAL FOREST
Permit cost: $5 each.
Getting a permit: You can purchase a permit by using the mail-order form available at fs.usda.gov/main/olympic/passes-permits/forestproducts. They also can be purchased at forest offices around the Olympic Peninsula. They include forest headquarters in Olympia (360-956-2300), Hood Canal Ranger District Office in Quilcene (360-765-2200), Pacific Ranger District Office in Quinault (360-288-2525), Hoodsport Visitor Information Center (360-877-2021) and Forks Visitor Information Center (360-374-6522).
Note: Christmas tree permits are valid only in specified areas of the Olympic National Forest. Maps and information about cutting locations will be provided with each permit sale.