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Chippewa Forest tree headed to D.C. next year: Tree to be selected next spring, serve as 50-foot diplomat for Minnesota

Cass Lake-Bena Elementary third-grade student Dakotah Paquette and fourth-grade students Mililani Clarin and Eliana Haugh were part of 20 students who made the very first Christmas ornament for the 2014 Capitol Christmas Tree on Wednesday afternoon. The tree will be selected from the Chippewa National Forest.1 / 2
Chippewa National Forest Supervisor Darla Lenz, flanked by Smokey the Bear, announced the search for the 2014 Capitol Christmas Tree to Washington, D.C. The tree will be selected in spring and later transported to be lit at the U.S. Capitol Building. (Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer)2 / 2

CASS LAKE -- The Chippewa National Forest will supply the 2014 Capitol Christmas Tree for the first time in more than 20 years.

Starting next month, workers will comb Chippewa to form a list of trees they think are up to par, and officials from the main office of the U.S. Forest Service will help elect a tree to go to Washington, D.C., in the spring.

Once cut down next winter, the tree will travel by truck to the U.S. Capitol Building, stopping for ceremonies at various cities along the way. The tree's odyssey will culminate in a Capitol Tree official lighting ceremony on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol, after which it will be lit every night for the rest of the holiday season.

Darla Lenz, supervisor at the Chippewa Forest office, said the tree will represent the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, whose reservation it will likely come from. It will also also be a emblematic of the the state of Minnesota and the entire U.S. Forest Service.

"Today begins the year-long planning process" for selecting a tree and getting it to D.C. for the lighting ceremony, she said Wednesday.

Lenz said the tree will be recycled after the end of the holidays. "Cookie" sections of the trunk will be cut for souvenirs, and coffee tables have been made out of past trees, she said.

Chippewa Forest supplied the Capitol Tree once before, a 60-foot white spruce in 1992.

"That's about the height that we'd be looking for this year," Lenz said.

That tree's thousands of ornaments will be made by local schoolchildren; students from Cass Lake-Bena Elementary were crafting Minnesota-themed decorations Wednesday for the 2014 tree.

Minnesota Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, said he'd help get funding for transporting the tree to D.C., as local sources pick up the tab.

"That's part of our job now," he said. "(I'm) looking forward to helping to organize that, and do what I can to make sure we get the funds together."

This year's tree is an 88-foot-tall Engelmann spruce from Colville National Forest in Washington state. Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, officially lit the tree Dec. 3 in a ceremony held on the Capitol's West Lawn.

The Capitol Christmas Tree is distinct from the National Christmas Tree, which had its lighting ceremony Dec. 6 in President's Park near the White House.

Almost 1.6 million acres make up Chippewa National Forest, about 670,000 of which are managed.

Zach Kayser
Zach Kayser covers local government and city issues for the Pioneer. He previously worked for the Wadena Pioneer Journal, and is an alumni of the University of Minnesota, Morris. 
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