2020 deserves an extra-special Christmas tree.


If you’re treating yourself to a beautiful, live Christmas tree this year, might we suggest something other than the local nursery? One of the country’s numerous national forests, perhaps?

Few people realize that more than 75 national forests in the US allow visitors to cut their own Christmas tree. It’s a fun, festive adventure that benefits the forests too. As CNN points out, with fewer trees, there's less competition for sunlight and other resources and more room for plant life to thrive. Your tree might not be the prettiest you’ve ever brought home, but it will certainly be the most unique.

Beautiful pine trees
Credit: Serg_Velusceac/Getty Images

Now, before you pile your family into the car and head out to the nearest forest, there are a few things you need to take care of first. To start, not all national forests allow for tree cutting, and the penalties for cutting down a tree without permission can be severe. Check out Recreation.gov, a partner of the US Forest Service, to find one that does. You’ll also need to apply for a permit, which comes with a small fee, usually $5 or $10.

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The permits are different in each national forest, as are the types of trees. At Ocala National Forest in Central Florida, a tree permit will cost you $10 per evergreen, with a maximum of five. To chop down a tree in Monongahela National Forest in Elkins, West Virginia, permits cost $5 and limit visitors to one tree per household.

Finally, be sure to read the fine print for specific information about dates, maps, times, and accessibility.

Have fun, y’all!

This story originally appeared on southernliving.com