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MEEKER I Meeker Mayor Mandi Etheridge will join Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and renowned photographer John Fielder tomorrow in Denver, along with representatives from the White River National Forest and Choose Outdoors to announce the selection of the White River National Forest as the source of the 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree.
The Capitol Christmas Tree is not to be confused with the National Christmas Tree. The National Christmas Tree is planted near the White House and lit by the First Family. The Speaker of the House lights the Capitol Christmas Tree.
“The Capitol Christmas Tree has come from a National Forest since 1970, and we are honored to continue that tradition here on the White River National Forest,” said Ken Coffin, district ranger for the Blanco Ranger District. It’s such a great opportunity to bring some notoriety to this part of Colorado.”
Friday’s announcement will kick off a year of “Celebrating Our Great Outdoors,” culminating in the selection of the tree from the White River National Forest region in November.
In summer 2012, the superintendent of the U.S. Capitol Grounds will visit the region to choose one tree from about a dozen preselected by the Forest Service.
“We are looking for a tree that has that classic Christmas tree shape and is 60+ feet in height. The tree has to be close to a road that will accommodate a semi tractor/trailer and a large crane in order to remove the tree without damaging branches,” Coffin said.
After the tree is harvested in early November, it will be brought to Meeker in preparation for its journey to the nation’s capitol, which will commence two or three days later. The trip will visit several Colorado communities before heading across the country to Washington, D.C., making several stops along the way and arriving at its destination in late November. Once the tree arrives in Washington, D.C., it will be decorated with ornaments made by Coloradans.
“We will initiate an ornament drive early in 2012, soliciting and collecting 5,000 handmade ornaments from across Colorado that are made to hold up in winter weather and be visible for distances up to 70 feet. School children, 4-H clubs, scout troops and other youth organizations are often excited to be asked to contribute handmade ornaments.”
The 2011 Capitol Christmas Tree, which came from California, was decorated with handmade ornaments from across the state.
“The vast majority of the costs associated with getting the tree to the U.S. Capitol are covered by private donations of cash and in-kind support. To that end, we are working with a non-profit partner, ‘Choose Outdoors,’ to undertake the fundraising effort for this project. Bruce Ward, Choose Outdoors founder, has already begun this task and is making good progress,” Coffin stated.
Ward hopes to bring national awareness and action to the pine beetle epidemic that has ravaged forests across the state and increased the threat of wildfires, mudslides and habitat loss for wildlife.
The 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree has its own Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CapitolChrist masTree2012, where updates about the tree, the Celebrating Our Great Outdoors project and the pine beetle epidemic will be posted.
Meanwhile, Meeker residents and White River National Forest dwellers can be prepared for some national attention in the coming year.
“While the Forest Service is responsible for getting the tree, ornaments and smaller companion trees to Washington D.C., this is considered a gift from the State of Colorado to the people of the United States. This is a once in a lifetime event and we are really excited that the 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree will come from this part of the White River National Forest and northwest Colorado,” Coffin said.