FARMINGTON — The winter months' chilly weather can put a damper on family activities outdoors.
But one exception is when families brave the cold and cut down their own Christmas trees for the holiday season.
The Bureau of Land Management's Farmington Field Office is selling both BLM Christmas tree permits and U.S. Forest Service Christmas tree permits at their office for $5 per tree.
The BLM areas are located east of Farmington. Officials recommend cutting around State Road 173.
The Forest Service permits are being sold for Carson National Forest near Taos. Also available are permits for cutting a tree in the San Juan National Forest in western Colorado for $8 a tree.
Jason and Rebekah Oberholser, who live in Kirtland, have cut down their own Christmas tree for three years. Jason Oberholser said it is about making memories for the couple's four children.
"I know it is easier to just go out and pick up a tree from a store, but the holidays are about making memories. It may be a lot of work, but the memories are worth it for our family," he said.
He explained that it's a way for the family to understand the holiday season and what it really means.
And it seems like that worked. After the family cut down their tree Nov. 29 in the San Juan National Forest, the children all said their favorite part of the day was cutting down a tree that will sit in their home and remind them of their family exertion for weeks to come.
Last year, the local BLM office sold 475 Christmas tree permits to the community. The permits benefit both the government agencies and the public.
"We try to identify areas where it is prescribed to thin some trees. If we do it in the right places, there are great benefits to the land," said Gary Torres, manager of the BLM Farmington Field Office.
Dale Wirth, the BLM's branch chief of range and multiple resources, agreed.
"The area where trees are encroaching are areas where the trees don't belong," Wirth said. "People cutting Christmas trees help us save resources by thinning the trees."
COMMON VARIETIES OF CHRISTMAS TREES
Pinyon: Among the most common locally grown trees, it has needles 1 to 1.5 inches long that grow in groups of two or three. Fragrant and easily shaped, it is a good Christmas tree. Cones are 2 inches long and nearly round.
Juniper: Juniper trees are often found growing with pinyon trees. These trees, which are also a good option for the holidays, have scale-like leaves instead of needles. Juniper trees also have marble-sized blue berries in clusters.
Fir Officials with the U.S. Forest Service recommend you cut white fir and subalpine fir in San Juan National Forest. Found in mid-elevations and higher, they are fragrant and soft with a full crown and flat, flexible needles.
Spruce Spruce trees bear stiff square and sharp needles. The needles are prickly to the touch. Cones will hang downward on spruce trees. Families looking for spruce trees will most likely need to head to higher elevations.
TIPS FOR EMBARKING ON THE TRIP
Sure, it seems like a pretty simple, family-friendly excursion. And it can be. Just make sure to be prepared, grab the right tools and take a few precautions to make sure your tree cutting adventure goes smoothly.
Share your plans: One of the most important things you can do before you head out in the backcountry is let someone know where you will be headed and what time you expect to be back.
Don't get stuck on the road: Check road conditions before you head out. It is usually recommended that you bring a high clearance, four-wheel drive vehicle before entering in the backcountry.
Prepare for the worst: Take extra supplies with you in case of an emergency. Throw a few things in the car before you leave, including spare clothes, food, water, a shovel and extra gas.
Bring the right tools: Don't forget to bring something to cut the tree down, like a saw or an axe, and some work gloves to help you carry it back to your vehicle.