Looking for a Christmas tree that's a bargain and eco-friendly?

If you don't mind one that's a bit sparser and spindlier than the fat, triangle-shaped farmed variety, Arctic adventurer Will Steger and writer Jeff Forester have an option to suggest -- a balsam fir from their land near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

At Mother Earth Gardens in south Minneapolis, prices range from $15 for a 6-foot tree to $40 for a 12-footer. The trees are also available at Amelia Flower in Uptown .

There's more in this deal for Steger and the aptly named Forester, who wrote the book "Forest for the Trees: How Humans Shaped the Northwoods." These trees were cut to protect others.

Clearing younger, more flammable firs from beneath the taller, old-growth red and white pines makes wildfires less likely to burn out of control and makes space for more pine seedlings to grow.

While it's a common practice to thin forests like this, the trees are usually burned or chipped, so giving them extended life as holiday-ornament repositories can be seen as a form of recycling. But the trees are being promoted as organic (pesticide-free) and "free range," which might be getting a bit fanciful.

"Up here we don't call it organic," said Julie Miedtke, who does forest education for the University of Minnesota's Extension Service in Grand Rapids. "We call it a Christmas tree."

Kristin Tillotson • 612-673-7046