Christmas tree hunting to me is a family affair, complete with hiking, laughter, sticky tree sap and of course, a fresh Christmas tree! However Christmas tree hunting isn’t only about finding the best tree for your home, but it’s also about reducing wildfire fuels and promoting forest health.
According to Anna Belle Monti, fuels forester with the U.S. Forest Service Humboldt – Toiyabe National Forest, Carson Ranger District, “Christmas tree cutting also serves an ecological purpose. These are the trees that act as ladder fuels to the larger trees. The public is actually assisting us in removing hazardous fuels from the forest as well.”
For those who don’t know, a ladder fuel is vegetation that can carry a fire from the smaller plants to the taller plants such as trees. If fire does move to the tops, or crowns of the larger trees, it could result in a high intensity, or catastrophic wildfire.
To help understand why removing white fir trees is good for forest health, Ed Smith, Cooperative Extension’s natural resource specialist and director of the Living With Fire Program explained, “The mixed conifer forest of the Sierra Nevadas experienced frequent, low-intensity fires prior to Euro-American settlement. With settlement of the area, fires were effectively excluded. This created conditions favorable to white fir establishment in the understory.”
Without these frequent forest thinning fires, there has been an increase in understory vegetation, such as grasses, shrubs and small tree growth. Many of these areas are now overstocked with young trees, particularly white fir, which makes the forest more vulnerable to drought, insect pests and disease. By reducing the number of trees growing so closely to each other, forest health can be improved. This is why obtaining a permit and cutting a Christmas tree can be good for the forest!