New Hampshire

Christmas in the Wild: $5 Trees Available From National Forests in Vt. and NH

Rangers say the experience of hiking to find the perfect tree is growing in popularity

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If you're looking for a Christmas tree with a real story behind it — and want a bit of a workout to go with it — the U.S. Forest Service has an option for you.

It is selling permits that allow you to cut your own tree during a trek through Vermont's Green Mountain National Forest.

Those permits are just $5, but they're free to families with fourth-graders through a program called Every Kid Outdoors. That program is designed to get children excited about exploring nature.

The White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire also issues $5 tree-cutting permits.

According to the Forest Service, participants have to follow some guidelines when removing wild pines from federal land. Those include cutting the trees close to the ground, not leaving messes behind, and not taking any tree taller than 20 feet.

Trees also may only be cut in pre-approved areas.

Online maps are available to help you plan how to explore the Manchester ranger district and the Rochester-Middlebury ranger district.

The offer is growing in popularity, noted John Sinclair, a forest supervisor with the Green Mountain National Forest. He said last year, the service issued 1,300 permits in Vermont.

"The tree is kind of like the topping on the cake," Sinclair said, explaining the adventure to find the tree is the real benefit to participating. "It's there, it's something to look at, to have that memory of going out and getting it, but it's really about the experience: being out with your family, taking a hike in the woods, finding that tree. The perfect tree is always different depending on who's looking at it. It's in the eye of the beholder. But it is the experience. That's what we're selling."

The $5 tree permits are for sale at the Green Mountain National Forest offices in Manchester and Rochester.

They are also available online for an additional $2.50 surcharge.

The White Mountain National Forest has an online list of district offices where visitors can purchase permits.

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