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Capitol Christmas tree choice, coverage via WSU and 4-H

PULLMAN — For 35 years, the Capitol Christmas tree has been harvested from one of the 50 states and transported to Washington D.C. This year, Washington State is providing a majestic, picture-perfect, 45-year-old tree that will stand in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C. during the holidays.

Gary Chastagner, a scientist at Washington State University’s Puyallup Research and Extension Center, played a role in its selection and care. WSU Extension’s 4-H Network News crew is chronicling the 65.5-foot-tall tree’s cross-country journey.

Contacted last spring, Chastagner advised the U.S. Forest Service and the Washington Department of Natural Resources on the post-harvest moisture and needle retention characteristics of the types of trees on the Olympic National Forest. He also is providing advice about the tree’s care while it is on the road.

He and technician Kathy Riley attached a device on the flatbed truck that is transporting the tree to monitor the environmental conditions the tree is exposed to during its trip. They also collected foliage samples to measure the initial moisture of the tree, which will be compared to foliage samples collected once the tree arrives in the Nation’s capitol.

So far, the tree is doing well, Chastagner said. The first samples to monitor moisture content, taken when the tree was harvested on Nov. 1, averaged just above 112 percent, which means that over half the weight of the tree was water. The samples that were taken two weeks later showed moisture content at 110 percent.

4-H Network News, a youth-run multimedia club based at the WSU Extension office in Jefferson County, is video blogging the 2006 Capitol Christmas Tree. The news crew has covered the cutting of the Pacific Sliver Fir in the Olympic National Forest, several dedication ceremonies, an interview with Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire at the state capitol and discussions with key individuals associated with the project. Multimedia reports can be seen at:

The Capitol Christmas tree lighting is slated for Dec. 6. Plans for the tree extend beyond the Christmas season, as it will be chipped in January and used as mulch in the Capitol Rose Garden in the year ahead.

Pamela Roberts, Jefferson County 4-H coordinator, said the Capitol Christmas tree is a perfect symbol for what 4-H stands for, in addition to what the four H’s actually stand for ­ head, heart, hands and health.

“For the past 100 years, 4-H has been teaching young people about forestry education,” she said. “The tree is a symbol of our connection with environmental stewardship.”

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