There's a lot of ways to "get a tree" for Christmas....you can buy an "evergreen" fabricated tree in the store or on-line and not worry about pine needles or watering, you can buy one at a Christmas tree lot, or you can head to the hills and cut one down in our national forests.
If you choose the family outing in the woods, you'll need a Christmas tree permit. The Bitterroot National Forest is selling them (starting November 18) for $5 at any forest service office in the valley or at Bob Ward's in Hamilton, Mr T's in Darby, Merc Fresh Market in Corvallis, Cenex in Stevensville and Lone Pine Conoco in Hamilton. You are limited to three per family.
If you're in the mood to open your own tree lot, you'll need a commercial permit. They are being handled by the Darby Ranger District at 406-821-3913 or the Stevensville Ranger District at 406-777-5461.
The permits come with a list of rules. Read 'em! Cutting is restricted in some areas, including campgrounds, obviously. Also don't leave a stump higher than 8 inches. Make sure you're on Forest Service land. Don't top a tree. When you bring the tree inside, cut at least an inch off the bottom. That helps the water move on up the trunk during the season.
If you're heading over to to the Big Hole, they've got their own permits on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest and the Bureau of Land Management. Check out the forest service offices in Deer Lodge, Philipsburg, Butte, Whitehall, Dillon, wisdom, Wise River, Sheridan and Ennis. BLM permits are at offices in Missoula, Dillon and Butte.
Have a good time, dress warmly, drink lots of hot chocolate, and don't track mud across my nice clean....... oops, sorry. I got carried away, there. 'Tis the season.