Shawnee National Forest Offers New Christmas Tree Permit

The Shawnee National Forest is offering Christmas Tree permits this year. (Source: KFVS)
The Shawnee National Forest is offering Christmas Tree permits this year. (Source: KFVS)(Nathan Ellgren)
Updated: Nov. 18, 2019 at 9:05 PM CST
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HARRISBURG, Ill. (KFVS) - Cutting down a live pine tree is a big holiday tradition for many families and now there is a new place in the Heartland to get your Christmas centerpiece.

For the first time, the Shawnee National Forest is offering Christmas Tree permits. They only cost $5.00 and each family can only get one permit and one tree per year.

Joseph Roberto hasn’t had a live Christmas tree in decades but plans to purchase one of the $5 permits and take advantage of the new program.

“Up north they go for up to 75 dollars, 100 dollars for Douglass Firs, and my wife said let’s go cheap and get a fake tree, but to have something where we could get that smell in the house again that’d be awesome," Roberto said. “I know of a lot of places with overgrowth, and half of those trees will die within a couple of years because of no sunlight. To take a couple of those trees down will help the system. For five dollars. I’d do it, every year.”

Justin Dodson, the civil culturalist on the Shawnee National Forest, said families can not cut down bald cypress pine trees but are allowed to take other species including cedar, shortleaf pine, loblolly pine and white pine.

Those with permits must harvest the Christmas tree on national forest land using their own equipment and chainsaws are allowed.

“You have to follow all road laws on the national service. You can’t take an ATV out there to get it, so it’s something that you have to be able to cut down and carry out by hand to get it back to your vehicle,” Dodson said. “There is limitations on size. We’re taking smaller trees. It can’t be more than 15 feet on the stump, and no larger than nine inches at breast height on the tree, so you can’t cut down a large and take it’s top off.”

Part of the experience is exploring the forest to find the perfect tree.

“This provides an opportunity for families to work together, get out into the woods, get some fresh air," Dodson said. "It’s having a connection to the National Forest as well.”

Roberto plans to take his son and his girlfriend out to get them their own Christmas tree this year.

“After Thanksgiving, I am bringing home a tree," Roberto said. "I know what I am doing every year now. It’s a great program, why not?”

Trees cannot be cut from any restricted areas. The areas are listed on the permit.

All permit conditions are reviewed when purchasing the permit from the Forest Service.

Permits can be purchased at any of the three Forest offices, located in Harrisburg, Vienna, and Jonesboro.

Hours of operation can be found at and the pine tree permits are available through December 31.

For more information and the full list of permit conditions, contact any Forest office or go online to

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