Taking a walk in the Colville National Forest this year can have a special significance, as the public is invited to keep an eye out for that perfect evergreen to grace the lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C. next Christmas.
The Colville National Forest (CNF) was selected to provide the “People’s Tree” during 2013 holiday season.
An ideal candidate tree will be 65-85 feet in height, have fullness of branches all the way around and have the typical, conical shape of a Christmas tree. The tree must be located on Colville National Forest land.
“This is a great honor for the State of Washington and especially our eastside communities. This is the first time a Capitol Christmas Tree has come from the east side of the state and we are honored to provide Washington’s gift to the American people,” said Colville National Forest Supervisor Laura Jo West.
Over the next 16 months, the Colville National Forest will be inviting Washingtonians, elected officials, schools and civic organizations to get involved in preparing the Capitol Christmas Tree for delivery to the nation’s capital.
One of the ways the public is invited to help locate the ideal 2013 Capitol Christmas tree is by identifying trees on CNF land and sending photos and GPS coordinates to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The tree must be in a location where use of a crane and removal on a flatbed truck can be accomplished.
Using the suggestions from the public, the final choice of tree will be made by Tom Bechtol, Superintendent of Grounds at the capitol in Washington, during a tour of the CNF next summer.
History and details
The tradition of the Capitol Christmas tree started in 1964 when House Speaker John W. McCormack (D-MA) placed a live Christmas tree on the Capitol lawn. The tree lived for three years before succumbing to wind and root damage.
In 1970, the Capitol Architect asked the U.S. Forest Service to provide the tree. Since then, a different national forest from around the nation is chosen each year to provide the “People’s Tree.”
The selected national forest also works with the state forests to provide “companion trees”, or smaller Christmas trees, for offices around the capitol.
The 2013 Christmas tree will be the second time Washington State has provided a Capitol Christmas tree. In 2006, the national tree was provided by the Olympic National Forest.
Cutting and transporting the tree from its home in a national forest is a dedicated affair, as the tree will make a tour visiting communities and military bases before arriving at the nation’s capitol.
CNF Capitol Christmas Tree Coordinator Jennifer Knutson said that shipping and tree security are both considerations during the process.
Because there are a couple of months between the official selection of the tree in August and the actual cutting of the tree in November, tree security is an issue.
The Superintendent of Grounds from the U.S. Capitol selects the tree in the summer and it is not cut until the first week of November.
“Usually, the location of the selected tree is not announced until right before (a week to a month) the cutting in order to protect the tree,” said Knutson. “This entirely depends on the tree’s location. Some trees because of their location will require no security, while others may require security for a short time. “
Once the tree is cut, keeping it fresh for its journey across the country will take a concerted effort on the part of the shipping crew.
“The tree is fitted with a bladder at the end of the trunk that stays on the entire journey to D.C. It drinks between 60 to 90 gallons per day,” Knutson explained.
The cost of shipping the tree across the country is generally paid for by donations.
“The shipping of the tree mostly happens with in-kind donations,” said Knutson. ” The trucks and trailers are donated (Mack Truck and Crane Trailers in 2012), gas and food incidentals are donated (National Association of Convenience Stores in 2012), hotel rooms are often donated or paid for by sponsors, the truck drivers (Senator Ben Whitehorse Campbell, Duane Brousseau, and Dan Schwartz in 2012) donate their time, and in 2012, Santa and Mrs. Claus (a couple from the 2012 Tree’s home of Meeker, CO) both donated their RV and time to travel with the tree.”
Knutson said the tree provides a unique opportunity for the area.
“The Colville National Forest is excited to provide the 2013 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree from the beautiful State of Washington,” said Knutson. “Kids from ‘one to ninety-two’ will get a chance to be a part of 2013 tree.”
For more information, please contact Jennifer Knutson, Capitol Christmas Tree Coordinator, Colville National Forest, (509) 684-7000.
By Jamie Henneman, Special to The Independent Staff