Updated

CUSTER | Fourth-graders can get a free Christmas tree through the Black Hills National Forest again this year.

A news release from the forest service says all fourth-graders are eligible to receive the free tree permit through the Every Kid in a Park Initiative, and can also receive a fourth-grade pass that allows free access to federal lands and waters across the country for a year.

To receive a free Christmas tree permit, students must present a valid pass or paper voucher printed from everykidinapark.gov/. To get the voucher, visit the website, click the “Get your pass” button and follow the instructions. Take a printed copy of the voucher to a district office or the supervisor’s office on the Black Hills National Forest.

The tags are available until Dec. 22 at Black Hills National Forest offices in western South Dakota and northeast Wyoming.

White spruce, ponderosa pine and western juniper are available to be cut in many parts of the forest, according to the release.

Permits come with instructions on appropriate tree removal, including where trees can and cannot be taken from. The release says trees can't be cut in developed recreation sites, forest service administrative sites, active timber sales, the Black Hills Experimental Forest near Rochford, the Black Elk Wilderness, the Beaver Park area near Sturgis or within Spearfish Canyon.

Individual permits cost $10. A maximum of five permits is allowed per person, and the maximum allowable height of cut trees is 20 feet. The permit rules state people must leave no more than 6 inches of stump on the ground.

Adhesive permit tags must be attached before a tree is removed from the cutting area. Park officials say they can issue citations for trees that are cut but not tagged, even if the tag is with you or in a vehicle. 

There are no refunds for uncut trees or unused permits. After Christmas, used trees should be disposed of properly as yard waste; they shouldn't be dumped on national forest land, according to the release.

Tags are available by mail from the forest supervisor's office, 1019 North Fifth St., Custer, S.D., 57730. Enclose a $10 check or money order for each tree permit, up to a maximum of five per person, as well as a self-addressed stamped envelope. 

Dec. 22 is the last day permits will be sold at forest service offices. 

Contact Candy DenOuden at candy.denouden@rapidcityjournal.com

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