Finding and cutting your own Lolo National Forest Christmas tree is a long-standing tradition in Montana.

It's also a wonderful way to spend time with family and friends on National Forest lands. This year, permits are available online, along with the more conventional way to which you may be more accustomed.

You can visit the Lolo National Forest page of recreation.gov to get started with the online application permit process. Now, it is important to carefully read the overview and need-to-know information prior to purchasing the $2.50 transaction fee permit. Plus, users will need to set up a recreation.gov account to complete the process.

If that doesn't sound appealing to you, you can still visit a Ranger Station: All Lolo National Forest offices will offer FREE Christmas tree permits, maps, and cutting information available for pick-up outside office doors. Please call ahead so staff can ensure permits are ready for collection.

Up to three Christmas tree permits are allowed per family. Display your permits on the dashboard of your vehicle when harvesting the tree(s). Permits are good for all National Forests in Montana. Cutting a Christmas tree also improves forest health and helps to thin densely populated stands of small-diameter trees. Removing these trees in designated areas helps other trees grow larger and can open areas to provide forage for wildlife.

There are a number of regulations to follow when selecting and harvesting your National Forest Christmas tree, which are more detailed on the application permit page. But we do want to at least point out here that you are not allowed to cut trees from plantations or within developed recreation areas, campgrounds, or Blue Mountain Recreation Area, or the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area.

Have some family fun. Follow the rules. And find that perfect Christmas tree!

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