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Christmas tree cutting permits will be available beginning Monday from the Gila National Forest

SILVER CITY — Permits for cutting Christmas trees on the Gila National Forest will again be available at all ranger district offices starting Monday.

For this year's Christmas tree cutting period, the public can start purchasing the permits four days earlier than normal. By providing the additional service to Christmas tree harvesters, families can obtain their permit and cut the family Christmas tree during the Thanksgiving holiday, and avoid the after-Thanksgiving Day rush.

Permits sell for $5 each with a limit of one permit per household. Free permits are also available for the fragrant pi on trees. Any tree species up to 10 feet high may be cut.

A Christmas tree tag, an information sheet on cutting regulations, and maps of designated cutting sites are included with the permit. To protect forest resources, tree cutting activities are not allowed within wilderness areas, riparian (river and stream) areas, and areas within 200 feet of paved roads and developed recreation sites.

Be sure to check with local ranger districts for road and weather conditions prior to going into the forest. During this time of year, the weather can be unpredictable with rain or snow storms making dirt roads muddy, snow packed, or impassable. Visitors to the forest should also respect forest and private lands, dispose of litter in trash cans or "pack it out," and close all forest gates after passing through them.

Forest offices are open Monday through Friday (except on holidays) from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Wilderness Ranger District office will be open Saturday, Dec. 1 and Dec. 8 from 8 a.m. to noon. Contact the local ranger district offices for further information on Christmas tree cutting.