CSFS and partners join together to help Montrose-area veterans and families.
Top row: Jamie Gomez (West Region Wildfire Council), Courtney Haynes (WRWC), Jake Schmalz (WRWC), Scott Johnson (CSFS), Kelsey Lesniak (CSFS) and Lilia Falk (WRWC); bottom row: Austin Shelby (CSFS) and Jodi Rist (CSFS).

MONTROSE — Earlier this month, staff from the CSFS Montrose Field Office were able to get into the holiday spirit – while getting their hands (and perhaps their hearts) sappy – cutting piñon pine trees that would otherwise be considered a wildfire hazard.

On Dec. 3, working with partners at the West Region Wildfire Council, they collected more than 100 Christmas trees for veterans and local families in need.

From forest to home

“It feels good to bring these trees down from the forest to brighten homes this holiday season, as others may not have the means to gather trees for themselves,” said Jodi Rist, CSFS supervisory forester in Montrose.

Rist said this annual event has occurred for four years running, with coordination between the CSFS, WRWC and several other organizations: Welcome Home Alliance for Veterans, Partners (Montrose, Delta and Ouray), Court Appointed Special Advocates, Hilltop Community Resources and Habitat for Humanity.

This year’s trees came primarily from U.S. Bureau of Land Management property, with some also coming from private properties where wildfire hazard reduction projects are slated to occur.

‘Thank you so much for this tree!’

Rist explained how a retired military veteran and his wife, upon picking up their donated tree recently, thanked her and relayed something she has heard before, but always appreciates being reminded of.

“It warms my heart,” she said. “When I hear someone say to me, ‘We haven’t had a Christmas tree in over 10 years because we got too old to go up to the forest and cut our own. Thank you so much for this tree!'”