12/08/2014 03:48 EST | Updated 02/07/2015 05:59 EST

Christmas trees on Crown land: what you need to know

If you live in B.C., you can skip the Christmas tree lot or garden centre, and cut down a tree for free on Crown land - subject to particular rules and restrictions.

"We encourage people to go out and have a good time, but really to be aware of safety," Heather Rice, a forest health officer with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations told the CBC's Daybreak South.

The Christmas Tree Permit can be printed online, or obtained in a Ministry office. Once you have a permit, Rice says it's important to read through the rules carefully.

According to the Ministry's website, here's what you need to know:

- You have to be 19 years old and a resident of B.C. to be eligible for a Christmas Tree Permit.

- The permit does not apply to people who already have a suitable Christmas tree on their private land. 

- You must carry your permit with you while cutting down your tree, and you may be asked by a Forest Official to produce it.

- In most areas, you can only cut down a tree in designated areas, including: hydro rights-of-way (on Crown land portions only and where Christmas trees aren't already being grown commercially), logging roads (within three metres of the edge of the road) and open range lands.

- You cannot cut down a tree on private lands, plantations, research areas, parks, watersheds, juvenile-spaced areas and other areas reserved for special use.

- Each family is allowed to cut a maximum of three trees. 

- Trees are for personal use only and cannot be re-sold at a profit.

- Douglas fir on dry sites make the best Christmas trees. Lodgepole pine, spruce balsam and other species may be designated for cutting if Douglas fir isn't available.

- Choose a tree that is the size you want. Cutting the top part of a big tree leaves a fire hazard, and could be a waste of a future tree.

- Do not leave lower boles (trunks) and branches of cut trees on the road or in the ditch.

- The tree cannot be taken out of province.

- Failing to follow the rules could result in fines or prosecution under the Criminal Code of Canada.

To hear more about Christmas tree cutting, click on the audio clip labelled: Cutting a Christmas tree on crown land

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