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RBC I Rio Blanco County commissioner Kai Turner joined Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Under Secretary of Agriculture Harris Sherman, and representatives from the U.S. Forest Service last Friday in Denver for the official announcement that the 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree will be provided by the White River National Forest.
RBC Commissioner Kai Turner, a fifth-generation Rio Blanco County resident, spoke for the county at the event, “The citizens of Rio Blanco County are pleased to provide a tree to the State of Colorado to send to Washington, D.C., for use as the 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree. The residents of our county are proud to have this special opportunity.”
Turner said he considered it a “privilege” to speak at the governor’s press conference on behalf of Rio Blanco County, describing the county and mentioning some of its “outstanding attributes.”
Preparations for the “people’s tree” will be under way all year, with collections of handmade ornaments from school children and groups across the state, contests and plenty of photo opportunities for the community and the region.
“The governor suggested we (Meeker and Rio Blanco County) participate in cutting and loading the tree,” Turner said.
He added that summer trips to see the potential trees this spring and summer with GPS coordinates and a suggested route that includes the scenic byway would help generate tourism through Meeker and the surrounding area.
“The 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree program is a privately-funded yearlong campaign. The agritourism board is a major contributor to the project and is working towards promoting Rio Blanco County and Colorado. I think the agritourism group will have some great ideas and help us out,” Turner said.
The birthplace of the 2012 “people’s tree” is the 2.3 million acre White River National Forest in central Colorado. White River National Forest staff will select a handful of trees to contend for the honor, leading up to the final selection by the Capitol architect next summer.
Once cut, Colorado’s gift to the country gets wrapped up on a flatbed truck and begins its journey across the country, stopping at various towns along the route on its way to Washington, D.C. These stops allow citizens from all across the U.S. to enjoy the tree, even if they cannot make it to the Capitol building.
The 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree will be harvested from the Blanco Ranger District near Meeker. The State of Colorado, Choose Outdoors (a Colorado based non-profit organization) and the Forest Service will organize the year-long effort to deliver the tree and engage the public.
“This is about much more than a tree to be set up at the Capitol. It is about the human spirit, giving and the nation’s forests. The Capitol Christmas Tree gives us an opportunity to connect people to the great outdoors and America’s National Forests,” Under Secretary Sherman said.
Harvesting a tree from one of the 12 national forests to serve as the “people’s tree” began in 1970. The last time Colorado received this honor was in 2000, with a Colorado Blue Spruce harvested from the Pike National Forest. In 1990, the Capitol Christmas Tree was an Engelmann Spruce taken from the Routt National Forest near Walden, Colo. Walden, in Jackson County, celebrated the town’s centennial that year.
Both trees were returned to their respective communities after the holiday festivities. The 2000 tree was made into benches placed around Woodland Park.
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