If hunting down that perfect Christmas tree is a time-honored tradition with your family, we hope that part of your lives stays normal in 2020.

The USDA Forest Service is modernizing its approach to selling Christmas tree permits and made them available to purchase through Recreation.gov as of October 15.

The Forest Service moved permit sales to Recreation.gov as an added convenience and to provide an alternative to in-person transactions at offices where staffing may be limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recreation.gov is a one-stop online resource to plan trips, share information and make reservations at more than 103,000 public lands locations nationwide.

In 2019, 13 national forests participated in the successful pilot program to sell Christmas tree permits online through the Open Forest platform. The successful testing has now expanded to include most national forests through Recreation.gov.

The Christmas tree permit program is also a tool used in thinning dense, unhealthy stands of trees. Forest health experts help identify areas where Christmas trees can be cut, opening up forage for wildlife and allowing the remaining trees to grow larger. This information is used to develop cutting area maps that visitors can use to locate their ideal Christmas tree.

So, if you like to cut it yourself and make a family outing of it, some good information worth checking out before you head for the forest. And Merry Christmas to all and to al a good tree.