Partnering with the U.S. Forest Service, Humboldt State University alumni hand-picked dozens of trees this July from the Six Rivers National Forest that will make the cross-country trip to adorn the Capitol’s holiday display in Washington D.C.
The 60 selected trees will decorate leadership offices in D.C. and stand as companions to the forest’s 84-foot white fir, nicknamed “Sugar Bear,” which was selected as the 2021 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.
Since 1970, the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, affectionately called “The People’s Tree,” has been harvested from one of 154 national forests from across the country. This is the first year that Six Rivers National Forest, located in Humboldt, Trinity, Del Norte, and Siskiyou counties, has been designated with the honor. After analyzing six candidates via drone footage and comprehensive forestry data, “Sugar Bear,” was selected virtually by the Architect of the U.S. Capitol staff to be harvested from the Mad River Ranger District.
To select the 60 companion trees, U.S. Forest Service specialist Julia Everta worked with HSU’s alumni association, Forever Humboldt, to organize two July field hikes. In addition to guiding alumni volunteers to appropriate locations, Everta gave each participant a detailed list of criteria for selecting each tree, including height, shape, and symmetry. Armed with the instructions, alumni and HSU supporters hiked through the forest near Willow Creek, selecting the best indoor-sized trees to represent the Six Rivers region in Washington D.C.
The theme for this year’s U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is “Six Rivers, Many Peoples, One Tree.” In addition to the help from HSU alumni, local school children are making holiday decorations for the tree that represent the natural resources and cultural diversity of California.
“This project is a great way to help people connect with their public lands,” says Everta. “HSU alumni were instrumental in furthering that connection by bringing the companion trees portion of the project to fruition.” With the legacy of HSU’s Forestry department, it was helpful that many participants were already knowledgeable in the technique of forest surveying, tagging, and sustainable tree harvesting, explains Everta.
Jenessa Lund (‘98, M.A. Psychology) was one of several HSU alumni who joined the search for the companion trees this July. “Spending a sunny day on the back roads of Humboldt County with my 16-year-old daughter and fellow HSU alumni was such a fun adventure,” says Lund, who is now HSU’s executive director of Associated Students.
HSU student Anisa Benamira-Dod, a Communication major, also joined the forest treks. She said hiking in the summer heat was a challenge but that she can’t wait to see the final results of her hard work at the Capitol this winter. Her sentiment is shared across the community. Many locals will be watching the People’s Tree light up with anticipation, knowing that a touch of home is shining from coast to coast.
To track the holiday trees’ journey from the Six Rivers National Forest to the Capitol, follow @USCapitolChristmasTree on Facebook and Instagram, @USCapitolTree on Twitter, or at uscapitolchristmastree.com.