U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Harvest in West Virginia Marks Historical Moment

Harman, WV (WOAY-TV): The holiday season is just around the corner and WOAY-TV saw the harvest of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree unfold here in West Virginia.

We first brought you the story that the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree was going to be harvested from West Virginia. We joined the U.S. Forest Service on November 1 for the harvest at the Laurel Fork Campground in Harman.

This isn’t your routine trip to a Christmas tree farm. It’s a team effort with the help of the U.S. forest service, loggers, a crane and a long enough truck to transport a 63-foot Norway spruce that weighs approximately 8,000 pounds on a journey around the state and then a 200 mile journey to the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

Despite the time and labor, they still used the traditional methods of logging, including an axe and cross cut saw. We caught up with one of the loggers who expressed his gratitude for this opportunity.

“We’re using an axe and across that’s all to get this tree on the ground as the traditional lovers of West Virginia did back in the days of yesteryear for chainsaws were part of tree removal. My father cut down JFK in 1962 and he cut down Carters in 1976, and I was selected for this honor this year. And frankly, I was overwhelmed with the opportunity because I never thought it would be a possibility,” said Arden Cogar, Jr., logger for the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.

The harvest was quite thrilling! They were axe cutting and sawing in a strategic manner to remove the tree safely without losing any branches.

Not only did this very moment on November 1st culminate an 18-month effort to find the right tree for the U.S. Capitol’s West Lawn, it was a time to recognize Ethan Reese of Beverly Elementary School in Beverly, WV who was declared for this year’s essay contest. So what inspired him to produce this great piece of literature on why he loves West Virginia’s forests and public lands?

“Probably my great great grandfather, Arthur Wood, because he was the super engineer of the Navajo National Forest. So that’s what inspired me because I thought I had a great connection to the Monongahela National Forest,” said Reese.

Merrill asked Reese, “What was your reaction when you got the letter in the mail or phone call that you had won the contest? Reese said, “At first I realized I was, but then later on I figured out that I had won and I just started crying like happy tears.”

Now that the tree has been removed and placed on the truck, there’s still another two weeks to go before it even arrives in D.C. How will it survive? “There is a large kind of what they call a bladder bag that goes on the end of the tree and it’s silver around the front of the tree and it’s full of water. And so that keeps the tree hydrated on this journey to Washington, D.C.,” said Shawn Cochran, Supervisor of the Monongahela National Forest.

Stay tuned as we will follow the Christmas Tree tour through Summersville on Sunday, Nov. 5 and into Beckley on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

The Monongahela National Forest here in West Virginia could once again be selected as the source for the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, but before you get your hopes up, it won’t be in 2024.

“The tree comes from a different national forest each year. We don’t when it will come around here again, it could be another 50 years. But we won’t know when. Every January it’s announced which national forest the Christmas tree will be coming from,” said Kelly Bridges, Public Affairs Officer for the Monongahela National Forest.

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