US Capitol rep in Oregon to pick 2018 Christmas tree


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — While Christmas is still months away, officials are narrowing down their search for the perfect tree to display at the U.S. Capitol.

Jim Kaufmann, director of the Capitol Grounds and Arboretum at the Architect of the Capitol with the local "tree team" at Willamette National Forest. (USFS)

The 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree campaign reached a new phase this week. A representative from the Architect of the Capitol visited the Willamette National Forest to review candidate trees and select what will become the Capitol Christmas Tree.

The chosen tree will be displayed on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in December.

Jim Kaufmann made the trip to Oregon from Washington, D.C. He’s the director of the Capitol Grounds and Arboretum at the Architect of the Capitol.

Alongside a local “tree team,” Kaufmann is evaluating finalist tree candidates. The chosen tree and its location will be kept secret for security reasons until it’s cut down in early November.

What does a tree need to be considered? 

  • Must be between 65-85 feet tall

  • Have a straight stem

  • Uniform branching

  • Perfectly conical shape

  • Natural density

  • A rich, green color

“You would think there are millions of trees, but it’s almost like finding a needle in a haystack,” Kaufmann said. “To find that perfect tree that will look good at 360 degrees, it can’t have a bad side to it. That’s the real challenge. They are all wild grown and not grown for putting in our nation’s front yard.”

The trees being considered come from three different species: A Douglas fir, a grand fir and a noble fir.

The wooden Capitol Christmas Tree plaque. (USFS)

“Oregon is known around the country for its spectacular natural beauty, including its incredible national forests,” Kaufmann said. “It’s a privilege to visit the Willamette National Forest to select the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree. I have no doubt 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.”

The process of finding the Christmas tree is year-long process. It started in January, which is when the U.S. Forest Service announced that the Willamette National Forest had been selected to provide the Christmas tree.

“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.,” Sweet Home District Ranger Nikki Swanson said.

The theme for the 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is “Find Your Trail” in recognition of two anniversaries: the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act and the 175th commemoration of the Oregon Trail. In November, the tree will travel eastward from Oregon on the reverse path of the Oregon Trail.

The U.S. Forest Service has provided the Capitol Christmas Tree every year since 1970. The last time Oregon was chosen was in 2002 when a tree was selected from the Umpqua National Forest.

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