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WRNF Christmas tree permit numbers rising
Outsourcing likely having influence
Christmas Tree Harves
According to the Forest Service, there is a proper way to cut down a Christmas tree in the backcountry (hard hats optional). They have even produced a link to the pertinent skinny.

Much to the consternation of mid-sized evergreens from the Eisenhower Tunnel to the Western Slope, the Christmas tree business on the White River National Forest is booming. That’s likely because, two years ago, the WRNF Powers That Be began outsourcing the sales of its popular Christmas tree permits to various retail establishments.

The permit program is a system wherein citizens can, for a $10 fee, get legal permission to venture forth into the woods, cutting implements in hand, and recreate scenes straight out of Currier & Ives. Afterward, those same citizens can enjoy the process of dragging their needle-covered quarry over hill and dale back to the car.

In this neck of the woods, the local vendor is Bristlecone Mountain Sports in Willits Town Center.

John Charters of Bristlecone Mountain Sports
John Charters, co-owner of Bristlecone Mountain Sports in Willits Town Center, is on his third batch of Forest Service Christmas Tree permits, which are on sale through Dec. 24 for $10. - photo by M. John Fayhee
“This is the second year we have used community vendors as additional locations where the public can purchase National Forest Christmas tree permits, but this is the first year we have partnered with Bristlecone as a vendor location,” said Kate Jerman, WRNF public information officer. “We reached out in October to different vendor locations around the Valley to gauge interest and Bristlecone was willing to participate for the Mid-Valley. They have always been tremendous partners in our initiatives, whether it be helping inform summer visitors about bear canisters and Leave No Trace or in this case, providing an additional location for the purchase of tree permits.

“Bristlecone is a great partner in sharing our messages about this program and helping people understand where they can cut and how to harvest their tree,” Jerman continued. “The goal of the community vendor program is to make obtaining a Christmas tree permit more convenient and accessible for those who can’t always make it to our Carbondale or Glenwood offices during business hours. Harvesting a national forest Christmas tree is a tradition that the Forest Service is proud to continue to support.”

According to Bristlecone co-owner John Charters, he signed on to be a Christmas tree vendor as a community service.

“We buy the permits from the Forest Service for $9 and sell them for $10, so I guess you can say we make a bit of money,” he said. “But we do it to be good partners with the Forest Service and a good neighbor in the Mid-Valley. We also hope that, when people come in to buy a permit, they might end up buying something else.”

So far, Bristlecone has sold more than 200 permits and Charters thinks that number will climb to 300.

“We buy them in batches of 100,” he said. “We have had to go back for a new batch of permits twice now. Whatever we don’t sell this year, we can hold over to next year.”

Jerman provided these numbers for WRNF Christmas tree permits sold the previous three years.

  • 2017: 5,734 permits sold (vendor program initiated)
  • 2016: 4,620 permits sold (no vendor program)
  • 2015: 4,332 permits sold (no vendor program)

“Harvesting a national forest Christmas tree is long-standing tradition on the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District,” said Kevin Warner, acting District Ranger. “We encourage everyone to check in at an office location or a community vendor for maps of cutting areas and helpful tips on how to harvest your tree.”

The Forest Service is also continuing its program of giving free Christmas tree permits to 4th-graders. Thing is, to obtain these free permits, 4th-graders (presumably accompanied by grown-ups) must present a valid pass or paper voucher in person at a Forest Service office, like the one on Main St. in downtown Carbondale. Vouchers can be downloaded at

The sale of Christmas tree permits ends Dec. 24.

Thing to remember is: Even armed with a permit, you are not allowed to go willy-nilly through the forest with a bowsaw. There are guidelines, which can be found at: