As Joni Mitchell would say, “It’s coming on Christmas, they’re cutting down trees.”
For those who haven’t yet sprinkled their homes with fresh conifer needles or gone the plastic route, it’s about time to pack up the kids, some cocoa and a tree-cutting implement, and head into the wilderness. But before you go, a reminder that you need a permit.
West Kootenay residents can download a free, personal-use Christmas tree permit from www.for.gov.bc.ca/DKL/Tenures/Selkirk%20Forest%20District%20Christmas%20Tree%20Permit.pdf, or can pick one up from FrontCounter BC Castlegar (845 Columbia Ave.). The permits are valid until Dec. 25 and must be kept on your person while you cut and transport the tree.
Once you have your permit, it’s important to know that you can only cut down trees located on Crown Lands, like power line right-of-ways, road right-of-ways, and open unfenced Range land.
Trees can not be cut from private land or other areas reserved for a special use, from Woodlot License or Community Forest Agreement areas, provincial or national parks, research areas, areas within 50 meters of any stream, or forest plantations in previously harvested areas.
Mark MacAulay, silviculturist at ATCO Wood Products, says he finds it particularly frustrating when he finds that people have gone into reforested areas to cut down their Christmas trees. He encourages people to cut down trees on power line right-of-ways, since they are deliberately kept short.
Asked where specifically in the Castlegar area residents are allowed to cut trees, a media spokesperson from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations said, “ministry staff can’t recommend particular spots or areas.” There is, however, a government application called iMapBC (www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/about-the-bc-government/databc/geographic-data-and-services/imapbc) that can be used to highlight Crown rights of way.
The ministry reminds tree cutters to leave the house prepared with ropes, gloves, tools, tire chains, a first aid kit, a mobile phone and warm clothing, and to make sure you’ve found the right tree, as some permits specify only one tree can be cut.