The staff of Monongahela National Forest is excited to announce that a 63-foot Norway spruce from the Greenbrier Ranger District has been selected to serve as the 2023 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree this holiday season.
The tree was selected by Jim Kaufmann, director of the Capitol Grounds for the Architect of the Capitol, and is one of eight candidate trees that he personally visited on the forest recently.
“Selecting a tree to adorn the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol comes with very specific requirements,” said Kaufmann. “Thanks to the pre-planning of Monongahela National Forest staff, we were able to select a very traditional and graceful Norway spruce to represent Monongahela National Forest and wild and wonderful West Virginia at the U.S. Capitol during the holidays this winter.”
The People’s Tree will be harvested from the Greenbrier Ranger District, which was home to the very first Christmas tree provided from the Forest Service to the U.S. Capitol in 1970, also a Norway spruce. A red spruce was provided from the Gauley Ranger District in 1976.
“It’s a great honor for our district to once again provide the People’s Tree,” said Jack Tribble, district ranger for the Greenbrier Ranger District. “Our staff is excited to be a part of the project, including the harvest and packaging of the tree, to ensure it has a safe trip to Washington, DC, this fall.”
The tree will be harvested in early November before making its journey through communities in West Virginia before heading to Washington, DC, arriving at the U.S. Capitol in late November. The precise location of the tree is confidential until the harvest in early November.
The Architect of the Capitol’s team will decorate the tree with thousands of handcrafted ornaments from the people of West Virginia. The tree will be lit sometime after Thanksgiving during a ceremony with the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, part of a long-held tradition.
Non-profit project partner Choose Outdoors, along with presenting sponsor 84 Lumber and a host of partners, sponsors, and volunteers, are contributing funding and in-kind support of this project and its theme, Endlessly Wild and Wonderful.
“We are grateful for our shared partnerships and engaged community partners and look forward to representing them on a national stage in D.C. with this locally grown Norway spruce, which will make the perfect U.S. Capitol Christmas tree,” said Shawn Cochran, forest supervisor for Monongahela National Forest.
Norway spruce are an introduced species in West Virginia and have become naturalized across the state. These trees are often raised and sold on Christmas tree farms.
The Forest Service first undertook large scale reforestation projects in Monongahela National Forest starting in 1925, just five years after the forest was established. Norway spruce were often planted, along with other non-native and native species, as they were known for their rapid growth rate. More recently, the forest service has worked closely with partners such as The Nature Conservancy, Green Forests Work, and the Central Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative to restore native red spruce ecosystems across the national forest.