Idaho is blessed with beautiful mountains and immense forests.
In the winter the mountains and forests are covered with snow, making the landscape look like never ending clouds with skyscrapers covered in snow.
That is part of a poem submitted by Idaho fifth-grader Isabella Gerard, titled “Pristine Idaho Mountains,” which was selected at random from more than 200 entries from students across Idaho. As the contest winner, Isabella will be flown to Washington, D.C., to join House Speaker Paul Ryan and me to push the button to light the national tree.
Isabella’s poem captures the wonder of Idaho’s natural beauty and serenity and is a fitting accompaniment to this year’s U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree from Idaho’s Payette National Forest. The theme for this year’s Christmas tree is, “An Idaho Mountain Gem,” which was also the theme of the entries submitted by Idaho students. The tree is traveling to Washington, D.C., and being placed on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol. The tree is stopping in various Idaho communities, including McCall, Cascade, Horseshoe Bend, Boise, Weiser, Council, New Meadows, Grangeville, Lapwai, Moscow, Coeur d’Alene, Salmon, Idaho Falls and Twin Falls, along its route to our nation’s capital. A complete list of Idaho and nationwide stops and times can be found on the website for the 2016 Capitol Christmas Tree at: www.capitolchristmastree.com.
The website also includes a history of the tradition of the tree that explains that a Christmas tree has been displayed on the Capitol lawn since “1964 when then-Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John W. McCormack (D-Mass.) placed a live Christmas tree on the Capitol lawn. This tree lived three years before succumbing to wind and root damage. In 1970, the Capitol architect asked the U.S. Forest Service to provide a Christmas tree. Since then, a different national forest has been chosen each year to provide ‘The People’s Tree.’”
This year’s tree is the second from Idaho. An Engelmann spruce was sent from the Boise National Forest in 2003. The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is organized by Choose Outdoors, a national nonprofit that assists the U.S. Forest Service by developing partnerships and coordinating events throughout the year, culminating with the tree’s illuminating in December. This year’s sponsors of the tree include several Idaho companies. No taxpayer funds are used to fly the winner to Washington.
The tree will be lit the week of Dec. 5. Tradition holds that one youth from the state providing the tree serve as a “tree lighting helper” during the ceremony to illuminate it formally. Idahoans hand-made the tree’s decorations. It has been an honor for me and the rest of the Idaho congressional delegation—Sen. Jim Risch and Congressmen Mike Simpson and Raúl Labrador—to work on this showcase opportunity for Idaho’s natural resources. Thank you to the many Idahoans, including all the students who submitted contest entries, for making it possible for these symbols of Idaho’s graciousness, sensibility and strength to enrich our nation’s capital during the Christmas season.
Sen. Mike Crapo, a Republican, is the senior U.S. senator from Idaho.