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Engelmann spruce near Delta selected as this year's U.S. Capitol Christmas tree

The annual lighting of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is a time-honored tradition of more than 50 years.

DELTA, Colo. — This year’s U.S. Capitol Christmas tree has been chosen in western Colorado.

The perfect 55-foot tall, 25-foot wide Engelmann spruce was selected from the Uncompahgre Plateau on the Ouray Ranger District near Delta.

Selected virtually from a candidate pool of 10 Colorado trees, the winning spruce will be harvested in early November before making its journey to the East Coast, arriving at the U.S. Capitol in late November.

The U.S. Forest Service said Thursday the U.S. Capitol Grounds and Arboretum team will secure and decorate the tree with thousands of handcrafted ornaments from the people of Colorado.

The tree will be lit in early December 2020.

“The challenge in selecting a tree for the West Lawn is making sure it is symmetrical, full and in the perfect scale to gracefully adorn the U.S. Capitol. In a normal year, we scour the forest for this special tree. Due to the pandemic, we used videos, pictures and measurements supplied by the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests to identify a suitable Engelmann Spruce that all Coloradoans can be proud of,” said Jim Kaufmann, Director of Capitol Grounds and Arboretum for the Architect of the Capitol.

“This year’s tree selection was a little nonconventional, but we are very excited to have the tree selected and look forward to the next phase of the project, planning the tree cutting ceremony,” said Chad Stewart, Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) Forest Supervisor.

The U.S. Capitol tree last came from western Colorado in 2012. That tree was a 73-foot Engelmann spruce from the White River National Forest, east of Meeker.

Credit: Capitol Christmas Tree

“I’m thrilled that one of Colorado’s magnificent Engelmann spruce is heading to Washington, D.C. to represent our state at the U.S. Capitol during the holidays this year,” said Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, in July. “Coloradans are proud of our state’s natural beauty, forests, and incredible outdoor spaces, and I’m glad the rest of the country will be able to see a small piece of the majesty that Colorado offers. While this is a difficult time for people across our state and across the country, I hope that Colorado’s contribution to the national Christmas spirit can help bring us all together.”

Each year, a national forest is chosen to provide a tree for the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

“We sincerely hope the gift of this towering tree from Colorado for the Capitol lawn helps inspire deep pride in America the Beautiful and happiness throughout the holidays, while showcasing the splendor of Colorado’s Mountains and Mesas region," said Colorado Tourism Director Cathy Ritter.

The 2019 U.S. Capitol Christmas tree was a 60-foot blue spruce cut from the Carson National Forest outside of Taos, New Mexico.

"We are just so excited, and what a great honor for Colorado to be able to help the entire nation celebrate the holiday spirit," Polis said.

Learn more about the Capitol Christmas Tree at USCapitolChristmasTree.com.

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