Balsam bough harvesting permits available soon

Published: Sep. 5, 2023 at 5:22 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 5, 2023 at 6:13 PM CDT
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RHINELANDER, Wis. (WSAW) - On September 18, permits for balsam bough harvesting in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest will be available.

Balsam boughs are usually collected for making wreaths and garlands during the holiday season, and they’re very popular in Northern Wisconsin. Balsam boughs come from balsam fir trees. Within the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, they don’t allow you to chop down the entire tree.

They do, however, allow you to take from the bottom third of the tree as long as you have the right permit.

“Only harvest up to two-thirds of the branch to promote re-growth. The tree can withstand bough harvesting and it recovers just fine,” said Karl Welch, Timber Program Manager in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

The boughs are commonly used for both commercial and private use. They’ve traditionally had other purposes than during the holiday season, especially with Indigenous populations.

“It’s been used to block light for dark houses for spearing,” said Welch.

It’s also traditionally been used as bedding, for medicinal purposes, or even during the maple syrup boiling process to help regain control. Wisconsin is one of the leading states, alongside Minnesota, producing balsam boughs.

“You could buy a Christmas wreath at Menards in Iowa, and it could be Wisconsin Balsam Fir boughs,” said Welch.

Balsam boughs in particular are used during the holidays because they hold their needles, stay green, and don’t dry out as fast as other trees do.

When harvesting these types of branches, you should use a gardening pruner and wear some sort of gloves to avoid getting sticky. If you would like more information on how to obtain a permit and how much it costs, you can visit the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest website for more information.