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How to harvest your own Christmas tree in Alaska

  • Author: Tegan Hanlon
  • Updated: December 1
  • Published November 30

Rafael Rodriquez, a resource forester with the Alaska Division of Forestry in Fairbanks, cuts down a white spruce tree in the Tanana Valley State Forest to be used as the office Christmas tree in the Department of Natural Resources office in Fairbanks. Kevin Meany, another resource forester at DOF in Fairbanks, stands in the foreground. (Photo by Lynn Crance / DOF)

'Tis the season to spot a spruce strapped on top of a car or tossed in the bed of a pickup as preparations for Christmas begin.

For Alaskans who enjoy the smell of fresh spruce and are looking to chop down their own Christmas tree this year, here are some tips on where to go and what you can cut down.

Where to go

Tim Mowry, a spokesman for the state Division of Forestry, said Alaskans can cut down a Christmas tree "on basically any unrestricted state lands," with some stipulations.

Tree cutting is prohibited in state parks, Department of Transportation rights-of-way, Alaska Native lands and other private property, Mowry said.

"The main thing is having people know where they are and the land ownership status because that's not always easy to figure out," he said.

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources has posted maps on its website, dnr.alaska.gov, that show where Alaskans can legally cut Christmas trees in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the Kenai Peninsula and Fairbanks.

Generally, there's a limit of one Christmas tree per household. A person does not need a permit to chop down a spruce — which is free and cannot be sold.

The state department has also compiled a list of phone numbers on its website for the agencies to call in each area if you're unsure whether it's OK to cut down a Christmas tree where you are.

Note: People cannot cut a Christmas tree on land owned by the Municipality of Anchorage, according to a city spokeswoman.

But here's a list of some places where cutting a Christmas tree is allowed:

* In the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the Division of Forestry has mapped out hundreds of acres in the Matanuska Valley Moose Range where Alaskans can cut down a Christmas tree. People can also cut a spruce on borough land within the Jim Creek Recreation Area, off Sullivan Avenue. There, the boundaries are marked with flagging and signs, according to the borough.

* On the Kenai Peninsula, all areas of the Chugach National Forest are open to Christmas-tree cutting, except Portage Valley and Turnagain Pass, according to a flyer from the Forest Service. (In 2015, a 74-foot Lutz spruce tree traveled from the Chugach National Forest to the U.S. Capitol building for Christmas.) The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is also open for Christmas-tree cutting until Dec. 25, as is Kenai Peninsula Borough land.

* In Fairbanks, Alaskans can cut a Christmas tree within most of the Tanana Valley State Forest, according to the Division of Forestry. But people cannot chop down a spruce in the Bonanza Creek Experimental Forest, as well as along Zasada Road or Rosie Creek Road.

* In Juneau, a household can remove one evergreen tree per year on designated municipal land. A person can also harvest a tree from Tongass National Forest land, the Juneau Empire reports.

What are some of the rules?

The rules differ slightly depending on where you plan to cut your Christmas tree.

Mowry said that before you head out, it's best to check the specific tree-cutting rules of the agency that owns the land, as well as the maps.

All agencies asked that people cut the Christmas trees as low to the ground as possible.

On state lands, people must cut a Christmas tree that stands 15 feet or shorter. While on Mat-Su Borough land, the tree can't be taller than 12 feet.

In the Chugach National Forest, Alaskans must cut trees that are at least 150 yards away from main roads, picnic and campground areas, administrative facilities, trails and bodies of water.

Also, the Forest Service warns: "Do not lop off the top of trees higher than 20 feet in order to get the good parts."

Asked where the best place to chop a Christmas tree in Alaska is, Mowry said he wasn't quite sure. Because of height limitations, he said, many of the spruces look a bit like "Charlie Brown trees." A hand saw is likely enough to cut the stump.

However, Mowry said, his family always cuts down its own Christmas tree. It's tradition and, he said, "I would rather have an Alaska-grown tree than a Lower 48 tree even if it is a little skimpier."

Note: This story has been edited to show that spruce, not pine, trees are available for cutting as Christmas trees.

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