The news was an early Christmas gift: the West Fork and other area wildfires spared “The People’s Tree” — the Kootenai National Forest tree chosen to be this year’s U.S. Capitol Christmas tree.
“The tree wasn’t anywhere near any of our fires,” Forest Supervisor Chris Savage told the Lincoln County Commission Wednesday, Oct. 4.
Officials have yet to reveal the tree or its location. Savage said they’ll do so about a week before it’s cut down on Nov. 8. After the announcement, Forest Service law enforcement officers will guard it around the clock until it’s felled.
Once the tree is cut, preparations will begin for its roughly 3,000 mile journey to Washington, D.C., a trip that will include numerous stops along the way so people can check it out. The tree’s tour begins in Lincoln County on Monday, Nov. 13, with stops in Eureka and Whitefish. The following day it’ll stop in Libby, Troy and Trout Creek, before moving along to Thompson Falls for a Nov. 15 viewing.
The tree is slated to leave Montana on Saturday, Nov. 18, and reach the nation’s capitol on Nov. 27.
Lighting will take place in early December, Savage said, an event that will be attended by local Forest Service and county officials.
Savage said because of the tree’s location — too small to allow for a large crowd — officials are planing two ceremonies surrounding its cutting. He believes the first will be open to the general public on Nov. 7, the day before the cutting, while a smaller ceremony will occur the following day.
In other “The People’s Tree” news, Savage said they received more than 10,000 ornaments made for the tree, surpassing the 8,000 goal they originally set.