US Capitol Christmas Tree

Christmas in July: Make Ornaments for the Capitol Christmas Tree on the 4th

Thursday, June 15, 2017

If you're in the area, be sure to stop by the Troy Old Fashion 4th of July Celebration and make an ornament for the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. Join us at the Morrison Elementary School gym following the parade (around 11:30 a.m.) until 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 4. 

For more information, contact the Three Rivers District at 406-295-4693


Get to know the Kootenai National Forest

Friday, June 02, 2017



Just outside of Libby, MT nestled in trees of the northwest corner of Montana sits the Kootenai National Forest. From rugged mountain territory, river valleys to rolling hills, the Kootenai is home to over 2.2 million acres of land and is a playground for thousands of visitors each year. At 8,738 feet, Snowshoe Peak in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness is the highest peak of the forest, surrounded by the Purcell Mountains, Bitteroot Range, and Salish Mountains.

Hidden gems within the Kootenai include the Lake Koocanusa Scenic Byway a highway that stretches along the lake for 67 miles as well as over 100 lakes. The lakes vary in size from small alpine lakes to the 1,240-acre McGregor Lake with two major rivers, the Kootenai and the Clark Fork.

Within the Kootenai the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness stretches 35 miles long among glaciated peaks and valleys with two main ridges both north and south. “Variety best describes the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, ranging from the high, rocky peaks often snowcapped year-round, to groves of huge cedars in the canopied valleys. Hidden in the peaks and ridges are scores of deep blue lakes, feeding clear, cold streams that tumble to moose country below,” explained the U.S. Forest Service.

The Kootenai National Forest has been selected to provide the 2017 US Capitol Christmas Tree. Learn more more about the Capitol Christmas Tree and Kootenai National today.


Kenworth Truck Company and Whitewood Transport Team up to Haul the 2017 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree

Monday, May 08, 2017

Billings-based carrier will transport the People’s Tree from Montana to Washington D.C. in a Kenworth T680

The Christmas season will be a little brighter this year with the help of Kenworth Truck Company and Whitewood Transport, as the two take on the role of transporting the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree to Washington D.C. An annual gift to the nation, the 2017 tree will make its way to the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol from the Kootenai National Forest in Montana. This is the second time it has come from the Kootenai and third time from the state of Montana.

The tree will be cut in November and prepared for the 2,000-mile expedition, which will include a series of community celebrations and culminate with the official tree lighting in early December. Smaller companion trees also will be provided to decorate offices inside of the U.S. Capitol building and other sites throughout Washington, D.C., along with ornaments created by Montanans.

Whitewood Transport and its Kenworth T680 was chosen as the hauler for this year’s tree at the recommendation of Motor Carriers of Montana and based on Whitewood Transport’s reputation in the trucking industry in Montana, according to Bruce Ward, president of Choose Outdoors. Choose Outdoors is the non-profit partner that assists the U.S. Forest Service with coordinating the annual tour.

Whitewood Transport opened in 1972 in Whitewood, South Dakota before moving to Billings, Montana in 1987. Today, Whitewood Transport is recognized as Montana’s leading motor carrier after having been awarded Montana’s Motor Carrier of the Year for 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012 by the Motor Carriers of Montana. The company has a fleet of 35 trucks, and the driver selected to haul the tree is Larry Spiekermeier, who has driven a record of 1.6 Million accident free miles.

“It is an honor to be selected to carry the 2017 U.S. Capitol Christmas tree and to represent the great state of Montana during the tree’s journey to Washington D.C.”, said Mike Wilson, owner of Whitewood Transport. “You can count on Whitewood Transport to deliver this special gift to the nation safely with the support of our friends at Kenworth.”

Kenworth Truck Company returns as a fourth-year sponsor of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree program. A specially-decaled Kenworth T680 will transport the 53rd U.S. Capitol Christmas tree.

“Kenworth is proud to once again play a part of delivering the ‘People’s Tree’ to our nation’s capitol,” said Kurt Swihart, Kenworth marketing director. “The cross-country tour offers the opportunity for people to see this national symbol of celebration, and the Kenworth T680 is the right truck for this important job.”

“The Kootenai NF is very excited to have a Montana based company help in delivering the US Capitol Christmas Tree,” said Christopher Savage, Kootenai National Forest Supervisor. “One of our goals for this project is for people to have a sense of Montana as we deliver and host the tree to our Nation’s Capital. Whitewood transport is a great sponsor that will help us achieve this goal”.

“The annual journey is only possible with the help of strong partnerships throughout Montana and beyond state lines,” said Bruce Ward, founder of Choose Outdoors. “We’re grateful for the time and resources Kenworth Truck Company and Whitewood Transport are providing to help make this the best tour to date.”


Press release date May 8, 2017

Great ways to get involved in 2017

Thursday, March 02, 2017


The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree program is made possible thanks to companies large and small as well as volunteers locally and across America, who provide vital support of time and resources. Here are a few ways to get involved in 2017.

The U.S. Capitol Christmas program would not be possible without the generous support of sponsors and partners providing both cash and in-kind contributions, both large and small. For more information, please contact Bruce Ward, President of Choose Outdoors at

We’re on the hunt for the perfect tree to represent our great state of Montana. The tree needs to come from the Kootenai National Forest, be between 60 and 85 feet in height, a species representative of Montana, and accessible for a crane and semi-truck to remove the tree. If you have a suggestion, please contact Sandi Mason with the Kootenai National Forest at

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree program is a year-long celebration. Local communities are invited to get creative and to host holiday-themed events throughout the year, such as ornament making gatherings, fundraiser to help send youth to the Capitol to take part in the lighting celebration in December, Christmas in July picnic, ugly sweater party at a local brewery and more. Ideas welcome!

Local community events will be planned throughout Montana in November beginning with the tree cutting followed by an in-state tour. Once the tour schedule is announced, communities will be invited to help plan local celebrations.

Handmade ornaments representing the state of Montana will be collected to appear on the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree in addition to 70 companion trees in offices throughout Washington D.C. Special ornament making opportunities will take place throughout the year and Montanans will be able to create and send ornaments as a part of the year-long celebration. Details will be announced on the website ( for requested themes and how to submit ornaments, as well as special events.

Follow the story throughout the year online at and in social media: Facebook: USCapitolChristmasTree Twitter: uscapitoltree Instagram: uscapitolchristmastree

For more information, contact Sandi Mason with the Kootenai National Forest at or Bruce Ward, President of Choose Outdoors at


2017 program officially underwary

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Preparations for the 2017 U.S. Capitol Christmas tree program began with a community event on Saturday, February 18 in conjunction with the District basketball games in Eureka, Mont. Activities included refreshments, music, ornament making to adorn the Christmas Tree, displays highlighting past journeys of Christmas trees, and special appearances by Smokey Bear and school mascots. Thanks to all who attended, made an ornament and learned more about the 2017 program.







Kootenai National Forest Unveils Symbol Representative of Montana

Monday, February 13, 2017


The Kootenai National Forest has designed an accompanying logo to give a visual symbol to its preparations for the 2017 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. The Beauty of the Big Sky logo conveys the message that this tree is uniquely Montana. Reminiscent of a snow globe in shape, the logo captures the essence of Montana. The grizzly bear, Ursus arctos horribilis, is Montana’s state animal. The tree resembles an Engelmann spruce. The purple and gold colors represent the plains and mountains of the state. Montana’s state outline provides a solid base.


Montana Forest to Provide Nation’s Christmas Tree in 2017

Monday, February 13, 2017

MISSOULA, MONT., Feb. 13, 2017 - The Kootenai National Forest has been selected to provide the 2017 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree slated for the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Preparations begin Saturday, Feb. 18 in conjunction with the District basketball games in Eureka, Mont. with a community event.

Join Kootenai National Forest Supervisor Chris Savage at the kickoff at the Eureka Middle School gym, 235 7th Street E. Activities begin at noon and include refreshments, music, ornament making to adorn the Christmas Tree, displays highlighting past journeys of Christmas trees, and special appearances by Smokey Bear and school mascots. Christmas Tree activities are free and conclude at 4 pm.

“Montanans are proud of our rich outdoor heritage: our public lands, forest and rangelands, and clean air and water that provide recreation and economic opportunities for thousands of Montanans,” said Governor Bullock. “It is an honor for Montana to provide the tree for our nation’s Capitol while also showcasing our ability to work with diverse interests to do what’s best for our forest lands.”

The last time a Montana tree was chosen for this honor was 2008. The fir came from the Bitterroot National Forest. “Once again folks from around the country get to see what a real Christmas tree looks like. I am thrilled that we will be able to share a little bit of Montana's incredible natural resources with the rest of the nation,” said Senator Jon Tester.

“This is a great honor for Montana to have the Kootenai National Forest selected to supply the 2017 Capitol Christmas Tree,” said Senator Steve Daines. “This is an amazing opportunity to showcase the majesty of the Kootenai National Forest and Montana’s abundance of natural resources at the base of the U.S. Capitol for all Americans to enjoy. I’m excited for Montana to join with the rest of the nation in this special way to celebrate the joy of the Christmas season.”  

“It is an honor for Montana to provide the official 2017 Capitol Christmas tree,” said Representative Ryan Zinke. “Montana’s forests are an important part of our heritage, economy, and legacy. I applaud the selection from the Kootenai National Forest and I look forward to a piece of our state being shared with Washington D.C., our nation and the rest of the world.”

An imperative step is choosing the best tree specimen to represent Montana. Trees need to be between 60 and 85 feet in height. The candidate needs to be accessible for the crane and semi-truck that will be used to remove the tree. The tree species should be representative of Montana. If you have a suggestion, please contact Sandi Mason at the KNF. 

The Kootenai National Forest and its lead non-profit partner for the Christmas Tree project, Choose Outdoors, will work together to bring the tree to Washington D.C. in November 2017. During 2017, there will be special events, ornament making, a tree cutting ceremony and the cross-country tour prior to the arrival of the tree in the capitol city. The Feb. 18 event kicks off festivities. Contact Choose Outdoors, via Sandi Mason, to become involved in the project.

The Christmas season has officially begun

Thursday, December 08, 2016

On Tuesday, December 6, the 2016 U.S. Capitol Christmas tree from the Payette National Forest in Idaho was lit on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. Rain couldn't keep spectators from gathering to officially usher in the 2016 Christmas season. Idaho fifth-grader Isabella Gerard joined Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, along with Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and James Risch, Congressman Raúl Labrador, and Stephen Ayers, Architect of the Capitol. 

Watch exclusive coverage from 2016 media partner KTVB.




The story behind the 80-foot Christmas tree outside the U.S. Capitol

Monday, December 05, 2016

McClatchy DC, December 5, 2016- In the last 52 years, both the size of the Capitol Christmas Tree and the cost of getting it to Washington, D.C., have increased considerably.

In 1964, when the lighting of the tree became a yearly tradition, federal officials selected a 24-foot Douglas fir from a Pennsylvania nursery that cost $700.

When Boise fifth-grader Isabella Gerard flips the switch on the Capitol’s west lawn on Tuesday, she’ll light up an 80-foot Engelmann spruce from Idaho’s Payette National Forest that cost an estimated $600,000 to move across the country.

The good news for taxpayers: Corporate sponsors donated most of the money for the 2016 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.

he 84-year-old tree, cut on Nov. 2 from Little Ski Hill just west of McCall, is just one of many Idaho trees sprucing up the nation’s capital this year.

While the arrival of the big tree on a 105-foot-long red truck got all the attention last Monday, Idaho also sent a second truck with another 69 trees, mostly Fraser firs. They were distributed to offices of various members of Congress and federal agencies.

Getting the Capitol Christmas Tree to Washington, D.C., each year has become a major production.

Alaska provided the tree last year, the first time it came from outside the lower 48 states. After it was cut in the Chugach National Forest, the tree spent three days on a ship, going to Tacoma, Wash., where it was loaded on a flatbed truck and sent to Capitol Hill.

Washington state and Minnesota provided the tallest trees on record, both 88 feet, according to the Architect of the Capitol’s office. Washington sent an Engelmann spruce from the Colville National Forest in 2013, while Minnesota provided a white spruce from the Chippewa National Forest in 2014.

Ted Bechtel, the superintendent of the U.S. Capitol Grounds, said that Montana has already been chosen to provide the tree in 2017.

Bechtel gets the final say in choosing the tree. He went to Idaho in July to select this year’s winner from among about a dozen finalists chosen by staff at the Payette National Forest.

“They provide the candidates and then it’s my job to select the tree,” he said. “I do this year after year – this is my 12th tree, so I sort of know what’s going to look good up on the lawn.”

After the tree arrived from Idaho last week and a crane lifted it into place, Bechtel arranged for a crew of 25 to 35 workers to decorate it.

At a news conference last week, Stephen Ayers, the architect of the Capitol, said the Idaho tree had a good overall shape and color, along with solid branches. They’re needed for all of the LED lights and the 6,000 ornaments made by hand by Idaho children.

“What a pilgrimage it’s been on – more than 2,500 miles on a remarkable journey,” Ayers said.

Brian Harris, public affairs officer for the Payette National Forest Service, said the tree made 30 stops before arriving on Capitol Hill, traveling through Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.

“There were a few things that were a little nerve-wracking,” he said. “But it’s a big project. It kind of looks simple: Pick a tree, cut it and deliver it to the U.S. Capitol, but it’s not quite that simple.”

The biggest scare came on Nov. 6, when Brandalyn Crapo, an Idaho state trooper and the granddaughter of Republican Sen. Mike Crapo’s first cousin, was injured while leading the motorcade for the tree from McCall to Boise. A pickup truck crossed the center line and collided with her patrol car.

“She’s OK. She broke her hand, but she’s going to be at the lighting ceremony,” said Keith Lannom, supervisor of the Payette National Forest Service.

Lannom provided the $600,000 estimate on costs, but said that the final total won’t be known until January, after an audit is completed. Lannom said the public costs include the salaries of eight Forest Service personnel who helped move the tree. Corporate donations total about $500,000.

The tree drank 20 gallons of water each day during the cross-country trip. And its branches, which were 26 feet wide, had to be trimmed down and bent to fit on the truck. The tree was accompanied by two law enforcement vehicles and one forest service vehicle.

Gary Amoth, a truck driver from Twin Falls, Idaho, who hauled the tree, said thousands of spectators met the tree on its stops across the country.

“The people were fantastic – it renewed my hope in America,” Amoth said.

Jade Sumsion, a law enforcement officer with the Forest Service, called the trip “a once-in-a-career event for us.” He said his favorite stop was in Weiser, Idaho, where the motorcade was met with a local firetruck with its ladder extended and a huge flag hanging over the top of a tree.

He said everything went smoothly after the accident in Idaho.

“Making turns is not an easy feat, and blocking roads is the thing that people don’t think about, pushing back the traffic so that truck can get through town,” Sumsion said.

Isabella, who’s 10 years old and attends St. Mary’s Catholic School, arrived in Washington on Friday, making her first trip to the city with her parents, sister, grandparents, aunt, uncle and three cousins. She planned to visit the White House, the Smithsonian museums and take a tour of the monuments.

At 5 p.m on Tuesday, she’ll light the tree, which is adorned with 20 pounds of glitter. With her will be Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Sen. Crapo. Gates will open at 4 p.m., with no tickets required.

“I think it’s going to be really exciting,” Isabella said in a telephone interview on Thursday.

Crapo selected the girl for the honor after she wrote a poem titled “Pristine Idaho Mountains,” describing what snow does to the mountains and forests in her state: “making the landscape look like never-ending clouds with skyscrapers covered in snow.”

Isabella said it took her two to three weeks to write the poem as she sorted through “a bunch of ideas.” When she got the word that she had been chosen for the trip to Washington, she said: “I was surprised and, like, really happy.”

Kim Pierson, a district ranger with the Forest Service who coordinated public events during the tree’s 30 stops, said it brought joy to thousands.

“Out of 10,000 people, we had one grump – he just wasn’t happy that it was taking too long,” she said. “I’m a botanist and for me, this is a magnificent tree. I love Idaho and this really represents the Idaho spirit and how hard we work and how much we love our public lands. ... I’m so proud of us, that we were able to share Idaho with the nation.”

Rob Hotakainen: 202-383-6154, @HotakainenRob

Capitol Christmas Tree arrives in D.C. area

Monday, December 05, 2016

Three weeks and about 4,000 miles later, the Capitol Christmas Tree has completed its cross-country journey from the Payette National Forest in Idaho to Washington, D.C.

The Engelmann spruce arrived at Joint Base Andrews Thursday night.

"It's really special. This tree was selected out of all the national forests across the country to represent the Payette National Forest at the U.S. Capitol," said Keith Lannom, Payette National Forest supervisor. "So we're very proud to bring it here to share with the nation and celebrate Christmas."

The tree stopped at 31 locations along the way.

The lighting ceremony will take place on December 6 on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.