It's time to bundle up the kids, pile 'em in the SUV and take a saw or axe and go get a Christmas tree. After all, this is Montana.

The Bitterroot National Forest has Christmas tree permits again this year and they cost $5. The permits are available at any Forest Service office or at Bob Wards and Lone Pine Conoco in Hamilton, Mr T's in Darby, the Merc Fresh Market in Corvallis and Cenex in Stevensville.

The "personal use" permit is good for up to three trees per family. If you are planning to use the trees for fundraising or make boughs for commercial sale, contact the Darby Ranger District at (406) 821-3913,

Only cash or checks will be accepted for payment, according to a news release from the forest.

Public Affairs Officer Tod McKay had tips for those who are heading out to get a tree.

  • Take a tree from an overcrowded area to help the other trees grow.
  • Do not cut trees in tree plantations or timber sale areas, previously thinned areas or recreation sites such as campgrounds.
  • Get a map of the National Forest land to make sure you're not on private land when cut your tree. Borrow a map from a friend or buy one for $10.
  • Be ready for bad driving conditions. Winter has arrived in the high country. A vehicle with 4-wheel drive, snow tires or chains is recommended.
  • If you've cut your tree, but are not putting it up right away, store it in a cool place. When you do bring it indoors, cut at least an inch off the trunk to open up the routes for water and make sure to keep the water full in the tree stand.