Next U.S. Capitol Christmas tree to hail from Willamette National Forest; first time Springfield-based forest will have the honor


Oregon - America's top Christmas tree producing state - will be providing a tree next Christmas for the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

And the tree will come from the Sweet Home Ranger District of the Willamette National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service announced Friday. It's an honor for the national forest and the state, said Willamette National Forest spokesman Scott Owen.

"When the tree is selected and cut down at the beginning of November, it will make a trip throughout Oregon," he said.

The National Park Service and the National Park Foundation team up to provide the National Christmas Tree, another outdoor Christmas tree that goes on display annually in D.C. near the White House.

The Capitol Christmas Tree will come from Oregon for only the second time overall and the first time in 16 years, according to Choose Outdoors, a Colorado-based nonprofit organization running the program. In 2002, the Umpqua National Forest supplied the tree, a Douglas fir.

The headquarters of the Willamette National Forest is in Springfield. Forest officials will enlist the public's help to find the perfect tree.

It must be about 70 feet tall and along a forest road so cranes and a truck can reach it to bring it down and haul it away. "It has to obviously have the shape of a good Christmas tree," said Bruce Ward, president and founder of Choose Outdoors.

The Capitol Christmas Tree will be cut in November. Organizers plan to have the tree's route to Washington, D.C. follow part of the Oregon Trail in reverse. Before the tree leaves Oregon in November, a "modern-day wagon train" will haul it around the state for a series of events, according to the Forest Service.

Ward was in Oregon this week, setting up sponsorship agreements with a trucking outfit and other companies to help with the tree.

The tree will go on display in December on the west lawn of the Capitol Building. Another 70 smaller Christmas trees will be cut on the district as well to decorate Congressional offices and other federal buildings.

The Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association listed Oregon as having the largest Christmas tree harvest in 2016, followed by North Carolina and Michigan.

The Forest Service has provided a Capitol Christmas Tree since 1970, with each of the agency's nine regions taking turns to provide the tree. Region 6 covers Oregon and Washington. The past two times the region provided a tree, in 2006 and 2013, it came from Washington, according to Choose Outdoors. Last Christmas, the tree came from the Kootenai National Forest in Montana.

Sending a tree to D.C. gives Oregonians a chance to share some of the state's beauty, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said in a statement.

"Majestic, towering conifers have long stood as an icon of Oregon's magnificent forests," she said. "This tree will symbolize our rich natural resources, our deep Native American heritage, and the people of Oregon, who are known for their independent spirit, innovation and love for our state's diverse landscapes."

Written by Dylan Darling

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Saturday, January 20, 2018