For hundreds of years, people all over the world have treasured evergreen trees because of their ability to remain green as the rest of nature changes color with the seasons. They have become a tradition, adorning the homes of people throughout the holiday season.
Some people like to purchase a live tree or an artificial tree, and others enjoy the tradition of cutting down their own tree. Whatever the preference, there are many places throughout the Palouse to find that perfect holiday tree.
Cara Lehman, University Housing marketing coordinator at the University of Idaho, said they encourage students to celebrate all holidays, but due to a fire hazard they do not allow any live trees, wreaths or garlands in student spaces, but they may be allowed in community spaces within housing areas with proper approval from professional housing staff.
For those who live off campus and want to cut down their own live tree, permits are required to cut down a tree in the forest, said Stefani Spencer, district ranger at Palouse Ranger District. Permits are $5 each and there is a limit of three permits per person or family. She said trees can only be cut on U.S. forest service land, not within city limits and not on camp grounds.
“It is important to know what the land ownership is that you’re on, because there is a lot of intermixed land ownership,” Spencer said.
Permits are available at the Palouse Ranger District, located in Potlatch, and four other businesses throughout the district. Tri-State Outfitters and Woodland Enterprises in Moscow sell permits and have maps available that show areas where tree cutting is allowed, along with handouts with tips and rules for cutting trees. The permits, maps and handouts are also available at Idaho Rigging in Potlatch and Helmer Store & Café in Deary.
Spencer said some of the rules include not cutting trees along highways. It is required to be 200 feet away from the road, and to not take just the tops of trees. The permit must be attached to the tree above the bottom branches, and law enforcement can ticket people for not having a permit, or not having it properly attached.
“Pile discarded branches away from roads, ditches and culverts,” Spencer said. “Cut your tree as close to the ground as possible, stumps should be eight inches or less in height.”
If trekking into the forest to cut down a tree sounds difficult, Rite-Aid, located at the Palouse Mall on the Moscow-Pullman highway, has live trees for sale, varying in price depending on the type of tree and its height. For a noble fir, the price starts at $19.99 for a three to four-foot tree and goes up to $39.99 for a five to six-foot tree. They also carry Douglas fir for $29.99 and grand fir for $34.99.
St. Mary’s school is selling trees in front of Howard Hughes Appliance store on the Moscow-Pullman highway. It’s prices depend on height, and start at $25 for a four-foot tree. Prices vary and go as high as $70 for any tree over seven feet tall.
For those looking for a tree with little maintenance, Walmart carries a variety of artificial trees starting at $15 for a 32-inch fiber optic tree and a six-foot unlit tree for $20. They have a seven-foot, pre-lit artificial tree for $89 and the prices go up from there to a frosted, pre-lit seven-and-a-half foot tree for $149.
Moscow Fire Marshall Joe Williams said people should make sure the tree they choose has fresh green needles that don’t fall off when touched. He said to always put the tree in a stand and make sure it has plenty of water, at least two inches up from the base of the trunk and to water it every day.
“Always turn off the lights before leaving or going to bed,” Williams said. “One in every three [Christmas] tree fires are electrical fires.”
He said to use lights with the label of a recognized testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor use while others are only for outdoor use, so that should be considered when decorating. Artificial trees should be checked for a label stating they are fire retardant. All trees should be kept at least three feet from any heat source and should not block any exits, Williams said.
Williams also said some people like to emulate traditional movies and light their tree with candles, but he advises this should never be done outside of cinema.
“After Christmas, get rid of it,” Williams said. “When the needles dry out and fall off it becomes a serious danger.”
Mary Malone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org