Community Agriculture Alliance: More than just a Christmas tree
The tradition in many local families, as in many families throughout the globe, is to tromp into the woods and cut down a Christmas tree each holiday season. Whether it is your tradition or not, cutting down a Christmas tree is an act whose benefits can extend far beyond providing a house with a holiday twinkle. When you cut down a tree, you are essentially harvesting it; it is removed from the forest and put to use in a different manner, becoming one of the many products we get from our forests.
The gap it leaves behind is not only a gaping hole — it is a chance for the trees close by to grow larger and healthier with the extra space, water and other resources that become available. It is a chance for the grasses and whortleberry, and maybe even a few aspen sprouts, to take up residence in the new-found sunshine. It is a chance to renew the forest. As you see, the act of harvesting a tree provides much more than just a Christmas tree.
As the season for cutting Christmas trees is upon us, we challenge you to look at the forests surrounding you, especially those in your own backyard. Is there a difference that can be made by cutting a tree? Whether you own one acre or 100, if there are trees on your property, there is a good chance they can be managed to improve the health of your land, as well as provide extra benefits to you.
Unbeknownst to many people, foresters keep very busy through the winter months. The soil is covered and protected by snow, allowing for timber harvesting to take place with minimal, if any, compaction to the soil. Winter is a good window to implement removal treatments of dead and dying trees, improving the health of your forest and reducing fire hazard. In the spring, new tree seedlings will take root and grow, and grasses will come back in strong. This can allow for better grazing and greater, safer movement for livestock and wildlife. Forest products — the result of harvesting treesm — will be utilized locally and beyond, bringing a profit to you while making your forested lands healthier.
Put on your forester goggles, take a look at your forested land and see the benefits of harvesting your forest through those glasses. Visualize your forest not in terms of months down the road, but rather years: five years, 20 years, 50 years. That is where vision shows you the true benefit of managing your forest for better health, and that is where you see how the benefits of cutting a tree can provide so much more than something to string lights on.
If you have any questions, be aware that we have moved. The Steamboat Springs District Office of the Colorado State Forest Service is now permanently located at 2667 Copper Ridge Circle, Unit 1.
Kristin Mortenson is administrative assistant for Colorado State Forest Service.
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