christmas tree

Open season: on trees in Eastern Montana
By Moosetrack Megan


Beginning Monday, November 21 Christmas tree permits are available for at all seven Ranger District offices and numerous vendors across the Custer Gallatin National Forest.  Forest Service offices in Bozeman, West Yellowstone, Livingston, Gardiner, Red Lodge, Billings, Ashland, MT and Camp Crook, SD will have permits available from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday – Friday for $5.00 each, with a limit of three permits per household.  Permits are sold in person and cash, check, debit and credit are accepted.

Permits are also available at these local community businesses:

  • Belgrade:  Town and Country Grocery and Belgrade True Value
  • Bozeman:  Owenhouse Ace Hardware (downtown store bicycle shop and W. Main St. store), Murdoch’s Ranch & Home Supply
  • Four Corners:  Murdoch’s Ranch & Home Supply
  • Big Sky: Big Sky Conoco
  • West Yellowstone:  Corner Cenex
  • Livingston:  Ace Hardware and True Value
  • Big Timber: Conoco Town Pump
  • Red Lodge:  Sylvan Peak Mountain Shop
  • Billings: Ace Hardware on Zimmerman trail and Cabelas
  • Absorkee: Rockin J Gas Station
  • Ekalaka: Carter County Conservation District

In South Dakota at:

  • Buffalo:  Harding County Conservation District,
  • Lemmon: Grand River Ranger District Office

In North Dakota at:

  • Bowman:  Bowman/Slope Soil Conservation Service

A permit can also be purchased for gathering personal-use boughs.  Permits, maps, forest road access updates and tree species identification guides are available at each ranger district office.

“Cutting a Christmas tree is a great, family fun tradition for many,” said Marna Daley, Public Affairs Officer, Custer Gallatin National Forest.  “Dress in layers for changing weather conditions, be prepared for emergencies, and enjoy spending time outdoors with friends and family.”

Those with a permit may cut a Christmas tree anywhere on the Custer Gallatin National Forest except in campgrounds, trailheads, designated wilderness areas, developed recreation sites, posted timber sale units, recently planted locations and administrative sites.  Permits are also valid for any national forest in the Northern Region, which includes all of Montana, northern Idaho and portions of North and South Dakota.  General guidelines for cutting a tree include the following:

  • No tree cutting is allowed within 50 feet of any stream, lake, or wetland.
  • Only trees 15 feet tall or less may be cut.
  • Cut your tree as close to the ground as possible and below the lowest live limb.  A remaining stump height of 6 inches or less is ideal.
  • After cutting your tree, attach the purchased permit to a lower limb near the trunk for transporting home.
  • “Topping” trees, or cutting the top off trees, deforms any future growth and leaves a visual eyesore.  Take the entire tree or choose another one.
  • Trees help protect watersheds, provide habitat for wildlife, and contribute to beautiful scenery.  Keep these values in mind when selecting a tree.

For more information, please contact any Custer Gallatin National Forest office or for general forest information visit online at www.fs.usda.gov/custergallatin .

Custer Gallatin National Forest Offices:

  • Ashland Ranger District:  406-784-2344
  • Bozeman Ranger District:  406-522-2520
  • Beartooth Ranger District:  406-446-2103
  • Gardiner Ranger District: 406-848-7375
  • Hebgen Lake Ranger District W. Yellowstone:  406-823-6961
  • Sioux Ranger District:  605-797-4432
  • Yellowstone Ranger District Livingston:  406-222-1892
  • Billings Office:  406-255-1400