Can You Cut Down Your Own Christmas Tree?

Can You Cut Down Your Own Christmas Tree

Can You Cut Down Your Own Christmas Tree?

The Christmas tree is arguably one of the biggest and most important decoration for Christmas. The tree is an essential, central part of holiday décor. While most people are perfectly fine with getting their tree from a store, some people prefer to get a tree themselves.

The idea of going out into the woods to find the perfect tree can be very appealing to some people. However, it is important to note that a person cannot simply go out and chop down a tree wherever they want. A person looking to cut down their own tree needs to acquire the proper permit and make sure they are in the right area for cutting down a tree. Failing to do either of these can result in fines and other bits of legal trouble.

Cutting Down Your Own Tree

When it comes to cutting down a tree for Christmas, a person is only allowed to cut trees in certain areas with the proper permission. After all, if a person doesn’t have permission to be in a certain area, they could be considered trespassers. On top of that, cutting down someone else’s tree can be viewed as a form of vandalism.

If a person wants to be able to cut down a their own tree, they either need to grow one themselves on their own property, which can take years, or they can get a permit from the United States Forest Service. Starting in November, the Forest Service begins issuing permits that allow a person to go into a national forest and cut down a tree to use as a Christmas tree in their home.

The permit to do this only costs $10. When a person acquires their permit, they will also be given a map that shows where they can and cannot cut down a tree. On top of that, there are a few other things that a person has to keep in mind when they head out to get their tree.

  • A person should always tell someone exactly where they are looking for a tree since cellphones may not work in the area.
  • Avoid getting trees in inclement weather as it can become dangerous.
  • Bring a map and compass into the forest and know how to use them.
  • Bring a tarp and some rope to help move the tree through the forest back to the car.
  • Bring emergency supplies such as food and water in case something bad happens.
  • Christmas trees acquired in this way cannot be sold.
  • Don’t cut tall trees with the idea of cutting the top of the tree of and using that.
  • Don’t cut tree trunks higher than 6 inches from the ground.
  • Each permit allows for only 1 tree to be cut.
  • Head out early in the day to allow for plenty of time and daylight to find a tree.
  • Immediately attach the tree cutting permit to the trunk of the tree after it has been cut.
  • Pay attention to the weather and dress appropriately.
  • Trees have to have a trunk of 6 inches or less in order to be cut down.
  • Trees that can be cut need to be at least 200 feet away from roads, recreation sites, campsites, and any wet areas such as streams or lakes.
  • Try to pick a tree in overgrown areas to help thin the forest.

Getting a Christmas tree in this manner can be a fun little adventure, but anyone looking to do this should be prepared for the worst and be careful. Where these permits are available vary by location, so check with your local Forest Service office for more information.

Penalties for Trespassing and Vandalism

If a person doesn’t acquire a permit to go into a forest and cut down a tree that isn’t on their own land, they could potentially face trespassing and/or vandalism charges.

Penal Code (PC) 602 is the state’s trespassing law. This law makes it a crime for anyone to enter or remain on someone else’s property without their permission to do so. This usually results in either infraction or misdemeanor charges. As an infraction, a person faces:

  • No jail time.
  • A $75 fine for a first offense, $250 for a second offense on the same land.

As a misdemeanor, a person faces:

  • Up to 6 months in jail.
  • A max fine of $1,000.
  • Misdemeanor probation.

PC 594 is the state’s vandalism law. This law makes it a crime for anyone to maliciously deface, damage, or destroy someone else’s property. This can include trees, which can be damaged or destroyed by cutting them down. The penalties for vandalism are dependent on how much damage was caused by the person. If less than $400 worth of damage is caused, then a person faces misdemeanor charges that come with:

  • Up to 1 year in jail.
  • A max fine of $1,000, unless the person has previous vandalism charges on their record, in which case the max fine is $5,000
  • Misdemeanor probation.
  • Paying reparations for the damages.

If the cost of the damages totals more than $400, than the person faces felony charges that come with:

  • Up to 1 year in jail.
  • A max fine of $10,000, unless the person has previous vandalism charges on their record, in which case the max fine is $50,000
  • Misdemeanor probation
  • Paying reparations for the damages.

How Do You Get Your Tree?

Christmastime is a great time of year, and one of the biggest aspects of the holiday is the Christmas tree. No holiday decorating is complete without one. If a person doesn’t want to go the same old route and buy a tree from a store, they can always go cut their own. However, if a person plans on doing this then they need to get the proper permissions to do so or else they could end up in trouble.

What do you think about being able to cut your own Christmas tree? Would you like to go into a forest and find the perfect tree, or do you prefer to just get your tree from a store or farm? Let us know what you think in the comments down below.