Cutting Your Own Christmas Tree, A Strong Wyoming Tradition

Despite the availability of farm-raised and artificial Christmas trees, state foresters say Wyomingites are still going out to the woods to cut their own trees.

Mark Heinz

November 16, 20224 min read

Tree chop 11 16 22 scaled
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Fake Christmas trees aren’t the first choice for Wyomingites, who apparently still prefer going into the woods to cut their own, say state foresters. 

A Cody resident who prefers getting his household’s Christmas trees the traditional way said it’s all about that fresh pine scent. 

“The smell of the tree is what we love about it,” Josh Spinney told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday. 

He and his wife hadn’t been out yet this year because “we usually wait until the first or second week of December” to ensure the pine scent stays fresh through the holidays. 

Photo Courtesy Josh Spinney

Tree Permit Business Not Slowing Down

U.S. Forest Service and Bureau Of Land Management officials says there’s been no shortage of demand in Wyoming and the surrounding region for agency Christmas tree cutting permits. If anything, there’s been an increase in recent years. 

“There’s been no decline noted (in Christmas tree permit sales). Sales have remained steady and even inching upward,” said Aaron Voos, spokesman for the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest. 

Forest Service Christmas tree permits are $10 this year, according to the agency’s website. 

The BLM also has seen an increase in sales, with its permits going for $5 or $10, depending upon location. 

“BLM Wyoming has seen an increase in Christmas tree permit sales since the online permitting system became available for use,” BLM spokesman for the High Plains District Tyson Finnicum told Cowboy State Daily.

“Also – in general – we’ve experienced an uptick the past few years in people getting outside and using public lands for all sorts of activities,” he said. “Between that and the ease of obtaining a permit, it makes sense that sales of Christmas tree permits have gone up.”  

Christmas tree permit sales across the region have been trending upward since 2018, said Denna Nemeth, spokeswoman for the USFS Rocky Mountain regional headquarters. 

Region-wide sales reached nearly 219,000 in 2021 and generated more than $2 million, she said. 

Know Where To Look

Spinney said that over the years, he’s figured out where to find the best trees to bring holiday cheer. 

“You’ve got to look for a small valley where the trees are somewhat protected,” he said. “They grow straighter in those areas. And, you definitely need a four-wheel drive to get there.

“We will go out and just spend the day enjoying the woods. We usually invite some friends and make a picnic out of it.”

Having high ceilings in his home allows him to bring home the grandest of trees, Spinney said. 

“We like sending photos of our Christmas trees to our folks back home in Michigan,” he said. “They’re all buying trees from a Christmas tree farm, and they can’t get anything nearly the size of ours.”

Put It To Good Use

Once the holidays are over, Spinney said he doesn’t “just toss the tree out into the garbage.” 

Instead, he’ll cut and split the main trunk and stack it to dry to become the next season’s firewood. He also uses the needles as mulch. 

There are places in Cody where people can take Christmas trees to be ground into mulch, or put into local lakes to create fish habitat, he said. 

For those who don’t want to cut their own trees, buying local is a still an option and a way to support good causes, Spinney added. 

“There are groups here, such as Boy Scout troops, that sell Christmas trees as fundraisers,” he said. 

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter