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Find a real Latvian Christmas tree, without risking a fine!

Rīga City Council has issued an appeal to Latvian residents not to head into the city's forests in search of a Christmas tree.

As all Latvians will delight in telling you, they have a right to a suitable tree from state-owned forests, if they wish to go to the trouble of heading out into the wilderness to find one and transport it back home.

However, not all fir/spruce trees are up for grabs.

 "In preparation for Christmas, the cutting of spruce in the forests belonging to Rīga is not allowed. There are few spruces in these forests, their share does not reach 10% [of the forest area]. In the forests around Rīga, they are mainly hand-planted, cultivated for many years, having previously been grown from seed for several years in a nursery," said a statement from Rīga city council on December 4.

"If it was allowed to cut down Christmas trees in the forests of Riga, then in two years there would be no small spruce trees in them at all. We must protect the forest for the future, therefore we should not cut Christmas trees in the forests owned by SIA "Rīgas meži" (Rīga forests Ltd.)."

"During December and January, the inspectors and forest rangers of SIA Rīgas Meži will pay close attention to all forests belonging to Rīga. Many young plants have video surveillance cameras installed to prevent theft," they warn.

Forest-grown Christmas trees are usually not as symmetrical and bushy as those sold in retail outlets, which are specially grown and cared for in dedicated Christmas tree plantations, often in other countries. But there is a natural charm to a tree that has grown in natural conditions in Latvia itself.

While residents are welcome to walk in Rīga-owned forests, if they want a holiday tree, they will have to look further afield, to forests owned by Latvijas valsts meži (Latvia's state forests, LVM) which even offers a mobile app (LVM MEŽA KARTE on Google Play and Itunes) to plan a spruce search route, as well as make sure that you are not in a private forest or in an area managed by municipalities.

If you want to cut down a Christmas tree in the forest, you have to go 50 km from the Rīga border to the forests managed by JSC "Latvijas valsts meži". Information about spruce felling can be found on the website www.lvm.lv.

A tree may be felled free of charge only in forests managed by LVM. It is forbidden in public nature parks and specially protected natural areas, which are marked by an oak leaf image on a green background. The tree stump diameter should be less than 12 centimeters, which usually corresponds to a two- to three-meter-tall spruce.

LVM has plenty of information about what's legal and what's not, supplied in English as well as Latvian.

But perhaps the most eco-friendly solution is to get a tree grown by LVM in a pot which not only makes transport a lot easier but can be planted in the spring to grow naturally instead of turning into a desiccated brown skeleton. LVM has a video about its home-grown trees, which you can view above (in Latvian).  

Rīga claims to be the home of the Christmas tree (a claim disputed by Tallinn in Estonia) but please don't make us write that inevitable story again for the umpteenth time.  

 

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