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Steve Chiotakis: If you’re still in the market, you have just a few days to get a Christmas tree. Even in a bad economy, they can go for upwards of a couple hundred dollars. But if you have a little extra time and a little elbow grease, you can find a cheaper alternative — in the woods. Shannon Mullen reports.
Shannon Mullen: America’s national forests are full of bargain Christmas trees. For $10 or less, anyone can get a permit, go into the woods and cut one down.
The program’s been around since the late 1940’s, but the Forest Service says permit sales have increased 50 percent in the last two years.
Herb Karsten: I think because we’ve advertised it a little bit more, and of course with the economy.
Herb Karsten is a ranger in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. He says tree-cutters come from near and far.
Karsten: It’s really cheap. These trees aren’t the best looking, they don’t look trimmed, and they’re y’know, depends what you’re looking for, but the experience I think is what most people come out for.
Including Greg Felling and Kerry Muldoon, who drove two hours from Boston, where they say Christmas trees are too expensive.
Greg Felling: They charge by the foot in some places.
Kerry Muldoon: Yeah, by the foot. It’s $10 by the foot with a $50 minimum.
Mullen: have you ever done this before? Cut your own Christmas tree?
Muldoon: No, I’ve always went to like Home Depot //but yeah it’s my first time, so I’m really excited.
Mullen: So you made a day trip all the way up here for a Christmas tree?
Muldoon: It’s really fun.
Felling: Yeah, it’s beautiful country and it’s still a little bit costly to drive up here, but it’s still cheaper than just going and buying a Christmas tree pre-cut.
And the Forest Service gets some help with habitat management.
There are some places, and certain size trees that are off limits. But for the most part, people can cut what they want.
Muldoon and Felling spotted a nice 10-foot tree about a half-mile into the woods.
Muldoon: Smells good.
Felling: It’s a little more work. If you don’t mind a little bit of adventure, I think it’s well worth it to get out here and do this, and it brings out, like, the man in you. The logger. Haha, timber!
Muldoon and Felling say one downside to this process — there’s no one to help you carry your tree back to the car and tie it to the roof. But at city prices, they might have paid $100 or more for this same-size tree. Adventure not included.
In the White Mountains of New Hampshire, I’m Shannon Mullen for Marketplace.
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