British Columbia·Video

How to legally cut down your own free Christmas tree in B.C.

British Columbians can cut down a tree with a permit — but the free ones might not be as bushy as the commercial kind. Here's what you need to know.

British Columbians can cut down trees for free with a permit. Here's what you need to know

Harvesting your own Christmas tree can be a free and legal holiday activity that gets you venturing into the outdoors. (Peter Scobie/CBC)

The holidays will soon be here and for some British Columbians who like to channel their inner Clark Griswold, it comes with a trek into the wilderness to harvest their very own Christmas tree.

If you've never done it before, cutting down your own tree could seem like a daunting task. But in B.C., it's a perfectly legal, free — and relatively simple — activity, as long as you have the right paperwork and gear.

Here's what you need to know.

WATCH: CBC's Jon Hernandez shows you how to harvest your own Christmas tree

How to cut down your own Christmas tree

8 months ago
Duration 2:57
What better way to get into a merry mood than to cut down your own Christmas tree? Here’s how.

Get a permit

In B.C., Christmas tree permits can be accessed online. Permits are issued by the Natural Resource District where you intend to cut.

If you live in Metro Vancouver, the nearest districts where you'll currently be able to harvest are the Sea to Sky and Sunshine Coast regions.

You can find your nearest natural resource district here.

Apply for a permit online, and it will be emailed to you within 30 minutes. Print it off, and you're ready for a holiday adventure.

Bring the necessary equipment

Before you leave, the province advises you bring ropes, gloves, tools, tire chains, a first aid kit, phone and warm clothing.

Also be sure to carry your permit on you at all times.

Find the right spot

As outlined in your permit, there are a number of areas where harvesting is illegal. That includes private lands, tree plantations, research areas, parks, areas adjacent to rivers, streams, lakes or swamps, juvenile-spaced areas and any other areas reserved for a special use.

In most instances, trees can only be cut from areas of Crown land on power line rights-of-way. Those are the cleared areas immediately under power lines.

Maps provided by the province highlight accessible areas where tree cutting is allowed.

B.C.'s Christmas tree permitting site provides maps highlighting areas where harvesting trees is legal with a permit. (Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations)

Cutting down your tree

Most trees in these areas won't quite be as full and voluminous as trees you find in a commercial lot, so before you start cutting, make sure the tree you've selected is the one you want. Also be sure that it will fit atop or inside your vehicle — the province limits tree size to three metres in height. 

Cut at the base of the tree. Do not leave behind unsafe, pointed stumps. Also, clean up any debris that could potentially fuel summer fires.

Before you start cutting, make sure the tree is the appropriate size. (Pete Scobie/CBC)

Safely secure it to your vehicle, and you're off. Make sure you have your permit on you during the drive home.

Decorate accordingly. In the end it might resemble a Charlie Brown Christmas tree — but it came from the fruits of your festive labour.

A personally harvested Christmas tree might not have the foliage one might expect from a tree farm, but it's a labour of love for many. (Georgie Smyth/CBC)

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