Before you head out into public forestlands on your annual Christmas tree hunt, Virginia Gibbons would like to have a word.
The spokeswoman for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest wants to remind people venturing into the mountains this time of year to use common sense and take safety precautions.
People need to be aware of weather conditions, dress accordingly, tell others where you are going and expect to return, and take along emergency supplies of food and water, she said.
"The key is just being prepared," she said. "Fill up your gas tank, have the right map, bring basics to survive — high energy food, warm beverages."
Since roads on public lands administered by the Forest Service and BLM are not plowed in the winter, mountain roads can quickly become impassable because of snow, she said.
Each holiday season, officials invariably end up rescuing someone who gets lost or stuck in the mountain snow while hunting for a Christmas tree.
Both the forest and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Medford District began offering Christmas tree permits today. The permits are available at local Forest Service and BLM offices as well as at numerous vendors in the region.
For a list of local vendors, check out the list at www.fs.usda.gov/rogue-siskiyou. The list was being updated on Monday.
Because some vendors will begin offering tree permits a little later than others, it would be a good idea to call the vendor first to check permit availability, Gibbons cautioned.
The personal-use tree permits sell for $5 per tree and are non-refundable. There is a limit of five tree permits per person. A permit is required for the harvest of each individual tree.
Maps with directions to cutting areas will be provided at time of purchase. The permits cover the national forest as well as the BLM's Medford and Coos Bay districts.
After cutting a tree, the permit holder is required to validate it by cutting out the date, month and year on the tree tag and securely attaching it to the cut tree in a visible location before transporting it.
A permit does not allow harvesting a Christmas tree in wilderness areas, campgrounds, developed recreation areas, national monuments, research natural areas, areas of critical environmental concern, within fences or posted tree plantations, within 200 feet of state highways or on private land.
— Paul Fattig