Somewhere across the nearly 3 million acres that make up the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests, a tall, stately tree is growing that a year from now will decorate the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building.

Just which tree in that sprawling region will receive the honor of being the Capitol Christmas tree is a decision that the Capitol office architect will make next summer, based on about 15 to 20 candidate trees GMUG officials will recommend, the Forest Service said today.

Dana Gardunio, district ranger for the Ouray Ranger District, who is heading up the project for the Forest Service, said in an interview that GMUG officials have known for a few months now that the tree will come from within its jurisdiction. This summer they came up with some preliminary candidate trees scattered generally throughout the GMUG, a list they will winnow down to a final list. The Capitol architect will visit the GMUG to look at and choose from the final candidates.

Grand Mesa “absolutely” could end up being the source of the selected tree, in part because of its good road access, Gardunio said. That’s important because two cranes need to be able to get to the tree so it can be harnessed and carefully lowered to the ground and onto a truck when it is cut down late next year before being driven to Washington, D.C.

Gardunio said the Uncompahgre Plateau also is in the mix of potential locations on the GMUG that the tree could come from.

The ideal tree will be about 65 to 80 feet high, with a uniform appearance and not having big gaps in it, Gardunio said. She said it likely will be a blue spruce.

“The Capitol Christmas tree is really a great honor for any forest to get to have,” Gardunio said this morning in a press conference in Delta that was broadcast live on GMUG’s Facebook page.

Cindy Dozier, president of Club 20, said, “We’re excited that the national Christmas tree will come from an area that we all love next year. It’s a privilege to be a part of something that is truly bigger than all of us. Whichever part of our region, whichever county, whichever tree, we all get to share in this honor together.”

Some 70 smaller “companion” trees to the Capitol tree also will be heading next year to Washington for use at a number of federal buildings, although Gardunio said she didn’t know if all 70 will come from the GMUG.

Part of the undertaking will involve making nearly 10,000 ornaments to go on the trees, something Gardunio said schools, community groups and others will have a hand in creating.

The nonprofit Choose Outdoors is a primary partner in the project, and will be working to involve other partners in everything from making the ornaments to trucking the trees to Washington.

“We’ll be working to develop some great celebrations around this event and to create goodwill and friendships, the things that Coloradoans see as being very central to our lifestyle,” Marti Whitmore of Choose Outdoors said.


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