Few experiences create childhood memories like a trek out to the forest to cut down a Christmas tree.
Of course, it’s been many years since anyone living within a hundred kilometres of a city can simply hike out into the wilderness and chop down whatever they please. One requires a permit before they can remove a tree from the forests of British Columbia.
With Christmas less than 25 days away, the province has shared instructions for how to follow this time-honoured tradition without breaking the law.
The process begins with a visit to a website.
“Members of the public who wish to cut a Christmas Tree on Crown land for personal use must have a Free Use Permit for a Christmas Tree from each Natural Resource District where they intend to cut, signed by the appropriate District Manager or designate,” a B.C. government website reads.
It should be emphasized that a permit to harvest a Christmas tree in B.C. does not give one permission to cut from any area they please. You cannot obtain a permit and then simply head off with a chainsaw into Stanley Park, for example. Every permit must be obtained from a specific area, not every region of B.C. issues permits, and each permit is only valid for the area for which one obtained it.
“Each district is operated differently so please contact the individual districts where you plan on cutting for more information, and remember to carry your permit with you at all times,” the website reads.
A map that includes the boundaries of each district is available online. The districts easiest to access from Metro Vancouver include Campbell River, South Island, Sunshine Coast, and Sea to Sky.
The district that’s closest to downtown Vancouver, Chilliwack, does not issue permits for Christmas-tree logging.
Districts popular for Christmas-tree cutting, such the Okanagan and Sea to Sky, also include additional restrictions and guidelines.
The permits are free and, once obtained, don’t include a lot of rules beyond limiting one to the specific area for which the permit was issued.
The province does however offer a few tips on “tree-cutting etiquette”.
“Make sure you have found the tree you will use before cutting. Some permits specify only one tree can be cut,” the government’s release reads.
“Do not leave a pointed stump as this may cause injury to livestock, wildlife, pets or other people,” it continues. “Choose a tree that can be cut near the base and is easy to transport. Wasted tree remains left in the forest can form a summer fire hazard. Clean up and remove all debris associated with your activity.”
For city of Vancouver residents, it is a bit of work to harvest a Christmas tree from the wild. There is nowhere in the Lower Mainland where permits are issued. One has to drive up the Sea to Sky corridor, take a ferry over to Vancouver Island, or drive east into the interior before they reach a district where tree-cutting is allowed.
For those who want to take the family to cut down a live tree but don’t want to spend hours with them in the car, there is another way to go about it.
According to the British Columbia Christmas Tree Council (yes, that’s a thing), there are more than 450 tree farms in B.C. where trees are grown specifically to be harvested for the holidays.
More than 25 of them are located right here in the Lower Mainland, most in Langley and Chilliwack.
You don’t need a permit to cut down trees on these farms. One is however required to bring their own logging equipment and have transportation to get the tree back home. These farms also charge a fee for each Christmas tree one removes.
Happy tree hunting.