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BOZEMAN - Permits for cutting a Christmas tree on the Gallatin National Forest are now being sold at Forest Service Ranger District offices in Big Timber, Livingston, Gardiner, Bozeman and West Yellowstone.

Permits are also available at Owenhouse Ace Hardware (bicycle shop) and Murdoch's Ranch & Home Supply, both in Bozeman; Lee & Dad's Grocery in Belgrade, and Gateway Exxon in Gallatin Gateway.

The cost of a national forest Christmas tree permit is $5, with a limit of three permits per household.

A permit can also be purchased for gathering boughs. Permits, maps, forest road access updates and tree species identification guides are available at the ranger district offices.

Trees may be cut anywhere in the Gallatin National Forest except in campgrounds, trail heads, wilderness areas, areas where trees have been planted (the trees are all about the same size) and administrative sites.

Also, no tree cutting is allowed within 50 feet of streams or within 100 feet of roads.

Trees help protect watersheds, provide habitat for wildlife and contribute to beautiful scenery. Keep these values in mind when selecting a tree.

• Limit your selection to trees less than 12 feet tall.

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• Cut your tree as close to the ground as possible and below the lowest live limb. A remaining stump height of 6 inches is ideal.

• After cutting your tree, attach the purchased permit to a lower limb near the trunk for transporting home.

• "Topping" trees, or cutting the top off trees, deforms any future growth and leaves a visual eyesore. Take the entire tree or choose another one.

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