The Christmas season is upon us.

Before noon Saturday, November 12, the National Christmas Tree passed through the Bitterroot Valley on a huge semi-trailer, on its way from Idaho to Washington, D.C. At about the same time, the Hamilton Downtown Association was putting up lights on the trees along Hamilton's Main Street.

And today, the Bitterroot National Forest is beginning the annual sales of Christmas tree permits. The $5 permits allow a family to cut as many as three trees. If you have a 4th grade student in the family, you can get a free single-tree permit by signing up at The federal program issues EKIP passes, which can be redeemed at Forest Service offices.

The regular permits are at those offices, but are also at a number of local merchants - Bob Ward's and Lone Pine Conoco in Hamilton, Merc Fresh Market in Corvallis, Mr. T's in Darby and Cenex in Stevensville.

Tod McKay of the Bitterroot National Forest had these tips:

  • Cut your tree from an overcrowded stand to help the other trees grow.
  • Don't top a tree. Leave a stump no higher than eight inches.
  • Don't cut in a campground or developed area, a current timber sale or a previously thinned area.
  • Make sure you know you're on federal Forest Service land. If in doubt, get a map for $10 at the Forest Service offices.
  • Be prepared for winter conditions. Snow is always expected in the high country this time of year. Use a 4-wheel drive vehicle with snow tires.
  • Watch out for pedestrians, bikers, skiers or snowmobiles on the forest roads - depending on weather conditions.
  • If you're heading east or south in the valley, make sure you're still in the Bitterroot. The Beaverhead Deer Lodge National Forest has their own permits. Again, get a map.
  • If you are needing more than three trees, contact the Darby/Sula Ranger District at (406) 821-3913. They are handling the fundraising and commercial permits.

    KLYQ tip - Take along lots of hot chocolate!