An annual tradition for some Montana families is to head out into the woods and find a suitable Christmas tree and bring it home.

The Bitterroot National Forest is again selling Christmas tree permits for $5 each. These are personal use permits, good only on national forests and BLM land, and families are limited to three per family.

The permits are available at Forest Service offices or at vendors including Bob Wards, Lone Pine Conoco in Hamilton, Mr. T's in Darby, Merc Fresh Market in Corvallis and Cenex in Stevensville. Only cash or check can be used for payment.

If you have a 4th grader in your family, you can get one permit free of charge. It's part of the "Every Kid in a Park national program and you need to get your voucher online at Take that voucher to a Forest Service office, not the vendors.

A few tips about ccutting your own tree. Make sure you're on U.S. Forest Service land (get a map). Don't cut in recreation areas or along roads. Find an overcrowded area if possible. Don't "top a tree," and don't leave a stump taller than 8 inches.

Be ready for changing weather conditions.

And one last tip - have hot chocolate waiting at home after you're done!

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