It stands as a tribute and image of the season, when we as a nation celebrate Christmas. It is the focus of a nation for the lighting ceremony and is the background of news footage, specials and photographs throughout December. It stands in the spotlight for only a few weeks and then the lights fade and it is gone.
To the US Forest Service, however, the Capitol Christmas Tree is far more than a symbol of the season and the short-lived center of attention on the west lawn of the capitol – it is a reminder of the legacy and heritage that we cultivate every day of the year.
This year’s tree comes from Wyoming, the first time the state has had the honor, and was harvested from the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Along with the tree, residents of Wyoming dispatched more than 5000 ornaments, plus 75 smaller trees and a thousand additional ornaments that will adorn government offices around Capitol Hill.
The Capitol Christmas Tree brings another important reminder with it – not just of the season, but of the Forest Service’s history of responsible natural resource management. Every year the tree stands as a singular statement and testament to the dedication, hard work, planning, collaboration, and local community support the agency works toward 365 days every year.
At some point, someone planted a seedling along a forest road 60 or more years ago. That seedling flourished and grew, withstanding wind events, disease and wildfire. It stands today on the west lawn of the Capitol grounds with a two-fold purpose. It is part of our legacy as an agency, and a symbol of the future that we cultivate and sustain every day across more than 193 million acres of public lands.
Someone, this past summer and in summers past, planted a seedling along a trail, a south-facing slope in a watershed, or near a woodland opening. That seedling will flourish and grow, and one day will take its place on the west lawn of the Capitol. The symbols for tomorrow’s legacies are being planted today on forest lands across the country. The seeds of America’s natural resource management and conservation ethics are planted every year in the hearts and minds of students and volunteers who work closely with Forest Service employees on forest and wildlife management projects from coast to coast.
We proudly stand with Wyoming in bringing this symbol of the Christmas season to you, and as a reminder of why we do what we do all the other days of every year.