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Naughty weather makes finding a nice tree a challenge posted on 12/01/2021

Area merchants and tree farmers warn that locals looking for that perfect Christmas tree this season can expect a less abundant selection after a summer of high heat and drought conditions impacted tree farms in the region.

 

U.S. Forest Service representatives stated that people intending to harvest their own tree should expect to find more “Charlie Brown Christmas Trees” in the National Forest with plenty of cheer, but potentially a brown spot or two due to the parched conditions this year.

“I think this is the worst season we’ve had,” said Kathleen Harrison, owner of Harrison’s Tree Farm in Sandy. Her farm, located at 48080 SE Coalman Road in Sandy, is a family-run farm that began growing trees in 1996.

The farm supplies three buyers in the Seattle area and one near Hillsboro, and is open for U-Cut on weekends starting the Friday after Thanksgiving. Harrison estimated they sell 800 trees annually to people looking to choose their own tree.

“We lost 40 to 50 percent of the new seedlings we planted this year during the heat dome in June and we’re seeing a lot more brown then usual on the older trees” Harrison said.

The farm was able to fill its wholesale orders for the year but she anticipates having to incorporate younger than ideal trees to meet demand as well as potential shortages in years to come as this year’s lean planting matures.

Welches Mountain Building Supply typically sells approximately 150 to 175 trees to the Mountain community each year. The owner of the building supply, Rochelle Simonds, noted that most of the tree suppliers in the area are having the same issues with burnt trees and stunted new growth. Simonds was able to secure the trees her business needs for their lot from Al and D’s Christmas Trees in Estacada, a farm she has done business with for years.

“We’re all local and we’re in it together,” Simonds said about the farm’s willingness to work with to assure the needed supply of fresh-cut trees.

“The heat impacted a good 50 percent of the trees that we would have marked for sale this year,” said Kevin Morris, operator of Al and D’s farm. “When you have a dead spot, it throws the whole tree off.”

Both Simonds and Morris predict a price increase in farmed Christmas trees this year due to the reduced supply.

Morris stated that due to the small nature of the family farm he operates generating a set profit is less a factor than using the land for cultivation.

“We try to be fair; it is Christmas,” Morris said. “We enjoy making sure the community has Christmas trees up there.”

For residents interested in finding and cutting their own trees, Christmas tree permits for the Mt. Hood National Forest are available to purchase at local vendors and online through Recreation.gov. The permits cost $5 per tree with a limit of five permits per house.

“The trees are not like lot Christmas trees,” said Heather Ibsen, Public Affairs Officer for Mt. Hood National Forest. Ibsen stated the trees in the National Forest were also showing signs of stress from the hot and dry conditions this year.

A Forest Service press release stated that this year “tree cutting is prohibited along Highways 26, 35, & 216; in Wilderness; in the Bull Run Watershed and The Dalles Watershed; fire closure areas; Camp Baldwin; and other areas closed to public entry.”

“Last year was busy out in the forest, and we’re expecting the same this year. We anticipate increased visitation but on a smaller footprint due to fire closures,” Ibsen said.

She requested that people seeking to cut their own trees in the national forest be prepared for changing weather and respect signage for boundary lines guiding where cutting is allowed. More information about the permits is available online at https://tinyurl.com/mthoodtreepermit.

By Ben Simpson/MT

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