STOCKTON, Utah (ABC4) – If you cut down your own Christmas tree this year, you may already know, there’s a cop for that. One example is a ranger with the Utah Bureau of Land Management.

He and another ranger cover 5 million acres of Utah wilderness, home to scores of wild Christmas trees you can cut down and take home for the holidays. ABC4 News meets the man who patrols it, in this edition of Behind the Badge. 

If you wanted to be like Clark W. Griswold this year, and cut down your own Christmas tree, doing it in Utah means you probably ran into rangers like Matt Gochis with the Bureau of Land Management.

“Everybody that I talked to has said this is one of the best things they’ve done all year as a family,” says Ranger Matt Gochis, Bureau of Land Management.

Ranger Gochis patrols land in the Utah BLM Christmas tree cutting program, letting you traipse around the mountains like Stockton Canyon in Tooele county in search of the perfect Christmas tree.    

He said this year is more popular than ever to ditch the tree lots and find your own. In 2021, Utah sold 4,500 tree cutting permits, more than any state in the country.

“People on social media are starting to understand the beauty of public lands and want that experience of cutting down that tree themselves,” explains Gochis.

He said knowing what to look for helps.

When you’re trying to find a good Christmas tree, ranger Gochis says to look for areas where a wildfire has cleared out the larger vegetation. He says it makes room for newer fuller trees.

“It has some good thick needles in here. It’ll give you depth for good ornaments,” Gochis shares.

Being out in these mountains is a job Gochis loves.

And like Clark Griswald, if you can drive off with the perfect tree, Gochis knows he’s helped spread a little Christmas spirit.

Gochis said although the job is pretty chill, it can get pretty interesting at times. This year he busted a commercial company illegally chopping down over 70 Christmas trees, and there’s always someone in a small two-wheel drive car that thinks they can load up a tree bigger than their car can handle.