MONTROSE, Colo. – Staff from the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) Montrose Field Office and the West Region Wildfire Council (WRWC) continued a local tradition this year by cutting piñon pine trees considered to be wildfire hazards and providing them as Christmas trees for local veterans and families in need.
“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.
The holiday tree-cutting event has occurred for four years, with coordination between the CSFS, WRWC and several other organizations in the Montrose area: Welcome Home Alliance for Veterans; Partners of Delta, Montrose & Ouray; Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA); Hilltop Community Resources; and Habitat for Humanity.
This year’s trees came primarily from U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property, with some also coming from private properties where wildfire hazard reduction projects are scheduled.
Rist explained how a retired military veteran and his wife, upon picking up their donated tree, thanked her and relayed something she has heard before, but always appreciates being reminded of.
“It warms my heart 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!’ ”
Over the years, the program has grown in popularity, and now nearly 100 individuals or families receive trees. To meet that need, the CSFS Montrose team works with the U.S. BLM Southwest Fire and Aviation Management Unit to cut trees from areas they plan to burn.
To complement the trees, lights and a tree stands (donations from local businesses, individuals and the Salvation Army) are also distributed.