Beavers at home

Signs of the American beaver in Alaska include a cut poplar tree on the upper Tanana River. 

Cutting your own Christmas tree is a time-honored tradition of many Alaskans, proud to trudge through knee-deep snow to find the perfect scraggly spruce to cart home and adorn with as many lights and ornaments that will fit without breaking its gangly branches. 

As fun as this annual activity can be, the Department of Natural Resources wants you to know there are certain guidelines to follow.

The Alaska DNR Division of Forestry allows for the responsible harvesting of Christmas trees on state lands that are open for tree cutting, without the requirement of a permit or a fee payment.

The maximum height allowed for a harvested tree is 15 feet and each household is limited to one tree.

Here are some of the rules to follow for safe and legal tree cutting: 

• Make sure to figure out who owns the land where you are hoping to cut your tree. If you’re unsure of land ownership, contact the Fairbanks Division of Forestry office at 907-451-2600.

• Cut trees as low and close to the grown as possible.

• Do not cut trees on any state park or experimental forest land. These areas are strictly off limits for tree harvesting.

• If you cut a tree on state land, it can only be used for personal use and is not allowed to be sold.

• Drive carefully and check out road conditions before you head out to find your tree. The Division of Forestry is not responsible for maintaining forest roads. Be sure to bring along proper gear in case your vehicle gets stuck. This can include tire chains, shovels, tow straps, head lamps or flashlights and warm gear. 

• While you are cutting your tree, feel free to enjoy a festive snack or warm drink but do not litter and be kind and courteous to other tree cutters in the area.

The DNR provides maps on where tree cutting is allowed in the Fairbanks area at bit.ly/2OIvsSQ. Those interested can also find directions on how to care for a freshly cut tree. 

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.