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Here’s How Families of Fourth Graders Can Get a Free Christmas Tree

If you love the tradition of cutting down your own Christmas tree, a national forest may be the way to go. This year, you can get a free Christmas tree as long as you have a fourth-grade student in your family. 

The initiative is part of the “Every Kid Outdoors” pass program. The Department of the Interior, which oversees public lands like national parks and national forests, says the program aims to get kids outdoors. The pass allows fourth graders and their families to enter a national park for free. You can also use the voucher to obtain a free Christmas tree permit. 

To get the pass, a fourth-grade student and their family can complete a form online on the Every Kid Outdoors website. From there, they can head to Recreation.gov to find a local national forest that allows visitors to cut down trees for the holidays. 

Here is a map of national forests that allow visitors to harvest Christmas trees: 

places to cut down your own Christmas tree
(Source: U.S. Forest Service)

When you checkout, simply check the box indicating you have a pass and enter the voucher number. It should be noted that Recreation.gov still charges a $2.50 reservation fee. 

So, why fourth graders?

According to the Department of the Interior, the program focuses on fourth-grade students because research shows kids ages nine to 11 are beginning to learn more about the world around them. Kids this age are open to new ideas and learning about our natural world and history. The agency goes on to say, “We offer the pass to fourth graders every year. Over time, every kid can get a free pass to explore our country.”

If you don’t live near a national forest, multiple Bureau of Land Management sites also allow tree permits. Find those here.

Tips for Cutting Down a Christmas Tree

Here are some tips from the U.S. Forest Service on cutting down your tree:

  • Most holiday tree permits are issued in November. Know your location, the weather, and your ability to traverse through snow.
  • Dress for the season. Always be prepared for the cold and snow, and start tree hunting early in the day to have plenty of daylight hours.
  • Bring emergency supplies, including water and food and a first-aid kit.
  • Remember to tell someone where you are going. Your cell phone may not work on many forests.
  • The tree you choose must be at least 200 feet from main roads, recreation sites and campgrounds, and stay away from areas along the sides of streams, rivers, lakes, and wet areas. Check with the ranger district for the proper distance.
  • Select a tree with a trunk six inches or less in diameter, and prepare to cut the tree no more than six inches above ground level.
  • Never cut a tall tree just for the top.
  • Select a tree from overstocked areas and thickets. Watch restricted areas. Cut only one tree per tag.
  • Attach your tree tag to harvested tree before placing in vehicle.
  • Bring a rope and tarp to move your tree from the harvest area to your vehicle.
base layers for the cold
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