The 2018 United States Capitol Christmas Tree campaign has reached a new phase of its official process this week. A representative of the Architect of
the Capitol is visiting the Willamette National Forest to review candidate trees and to select the Capitol Christmas Tree, which be displayed on the
West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in December. Making the trip from Washington, D.C. is Jim Kaufmann, the Director of the Capitol Grounds and Arboretum
at the Architect of the Capitol, the federal agency responsible for the operations and care of the U.S. Capitol buildings and grounds.
Together with the local “tree team,” which includes foresters and a botanist, Kaufmann is currently evaluating tree candidates and will select the 2018
U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, although the winning tree and its location will be kept secret for security reasons until it is cut down in early November.
Kaufmann will be evaluating each tree for a variety of desired characteristics, including being 65-85 feet in height, having a straight
stem, uniform branching, a perfectly conical shape, natural density, and rich green color. Each of the tree candidates is either a Douglas or Noble
fir tree, the two most iconic conifer species in both the Willamette National Forest and the state. The Douglas fir is Oregon’s official state tree.
Also of great importance is the tree’s accessibility by crane and semitruck for when it’s time for it to be harvested. Additionally, the U.S. Forest
Service is evaluating each location to ensure the protection of sensitive habitats and species.
“Oregon is known around the country for its spectacular natural beauty, including its incredible national forests. It’s a privilege to visit the Willamette
National Forest to select the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree,” said Kaufmann. “I have no d
oubt that we will find the perfect tree for the West Lawn of the Capitol, and we’re thrilled to have Oregon be an important part of the nation’s holiday
celebration this year.” “It’s very exciting to have reached this stage of the yearlong U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree process, which started in January
when the U.S. Forest Service announced that the Willamette National Forest had been selected to provide the 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree,” said
Nikki Swanson, Sweet Home District Ranger. “We have identified some absolutely beautiful candidates that will represent the State of Oregon perfectly,
and we look forward to unveiling the winning tree in November, as we tour it along the Oregon Trail on its way to Washington, D.C.”
The U.S. Forest Service has provided the Capitol Christmas Tree every year since 1970. In January 2018, the U.S. Forest Service announced
that the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree would come from Oregon’s Willamette National Forest. A gift from the Willamette National Forest and the State
of Oregon to the people of the United States, the tree will be displayed on the West Lawn of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., with a public
tree-lighting ceremony in early December 2018. The last time Oregon was chosen to provide the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree was in 2002, when a tree
was selected from the Umpqua National Forest. Seventy smaller companion trees will also be sent to Washington, D.C., from the Willamette National Forest
to decorate government buildings and public spaces this December. Additionally, Oregonians will contribute 10,000 handmade ornaments, to be created
throughout 2018. There is still a great need for weatherproof ornaments that are nine to twelve inches in size to decorate the Capitol Christmas tree.
Information on upcoming ornament making events, plus a template for creating one at home, is available online.
The theme for the 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is “Find Your Trail!” in recognition of two 2018 anniversaries: the 50th anniversary of the National
Trails System Act and the 175th commemoration of the Oregon Trail. In November, the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree will travel eastward from Oregon on
the reverse path of the Oregon Trail. The schedule and special events will be announced this fall. There is still a chance for people to win a trip
for two to Washington, D.C., to attend the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree lighting and festivities through the “Find Your Ornament” contest. Earlier this
summer, 200 glass ornaments were hidden along non-wilderness trails on the Willamette National Forest for lucky adventurers to find. In addition to
a keepsake ornament, more than 120 winners will be awarded prizes, and all entrants will be automatically entered to win the grand prize trip to Washington,
D.C. The contest runs through October 2, 2018. Further details are available at the Willamette Valley Visitors Association.