Harvesting birch poles, spruce tops, not legal without permit
Photo by Rhonda Silence

Harvesting birch poles, spruce tops, not legal without permit

A recent Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer update to local media included a report of illegal birch pole theft. A suspect was located and told DNR Conservation Officer Mary Manning that he was “just cutting a few trees” to decorate his home.

However, the individual did not know if the young birch trees were on state, federal or private land and was unaware of the regulations on transporting decorative forest materials.

WTIP checked in with CO Manning about this incident and learned more about the use of birch poles and other forest items, such as spruce tops. Manning said the use of these materials for home décor is not new, but it does seem to be more frequent.

She said there was a change in the law regarding harvesting from the forest in 2019. Anyone harvesting boughs, birch poles, spruce tops and other decorative forest products need written permission from the landowner and a permit from the public agency—either the DNR or U.S. Forest Service.

A landowner can harvest birch poles and boughs from their own private property, as was the case for the birch candle holders pictured above. Manning also noted that there may be landowners who would be willing to let people harvest on their land as part of clearing. However, she reiterated that the person harvesting must have written permission in hand while transporting.

With a permit, the buyers of boughs, birch poles and spruce tops may take 100 pounds of boughs, 50 spruce stems or branches greater than 6-inches in length or birch stems or branches greater than 1-inch in diameter. Manning said more information can be found on the MN DNR website regarding Harvesting decorative forest products.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence spoke with CO Manning about illegal birch pole harvesting in this interview.