Permits going fast for holiday tree cutting |

Permits going fast for holiday tree cutting

Jim Grant/Sun News ServiceAfter finding the perfect Christmas tree, David Prado, left, and Sebastian Loghin haul the 10-foot tree out of the forest to Prado's pickup.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE ” After about an hour and a half, the hunt for the perfect Christmas tree was over.

In between light snow flurries, two families emerged from a forest near Pope Beach last Saturday with a large cedar and fir tree in tow.

“Think small,” the slightly winded-sounding David Prado said when recommending what Christmas-tree hunters should look for. “Bigger is not always better.”

The Prados were one of hundreds of families taking advantage of a U.S. Forest Service program offering permits to cut trees throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin during the holiday season.

A permit allows the buyer to harvest a pine, fir or cedar whose trunk is no more than 6 inches across at the base in designated areas throughout the basin, including several on the South Shore.

While providing homes with traditional holiday greenery, the program also is part of Forest Service efforts to thin the abundant areas in the basin that are choked with heavy fuels because of years of fire suppression.

“The areas were chosen because they have an overabundance of these small-diameter young trees,” said Forest Service spokesman Rex Norman. “They’re the most desirable styles of trees that people are looking for.”

Fire prevention wasn’t the first thought of most of the tree hunters flowing into the Forest Service’s South Lake Tahoe office last weekend.

“I love the smell, love the atmosphere, love the fun you have with that big adventure,” said South Lake Tahoe resident Lori Morris, who estimated she has taken advantage of the Forest Service program for the past 12 years.

Fresh air, tradition and exercise were some of the other reasons given by people picking up the permits.

“And it’s cheaper,” said Basin resident Jessica Wahl.

Three thousand of the $10 permits are allotted for the basin, but they are unlikely to last until the Christmas Eve deadline.

The permits have been selling faster than usual this year, said Cheva Heck, spokeswoman for the Forest Service.

“Looks like they’ll probably run out by Monday or Tuesday [of this week],” Heck said.

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