Recycling Christmas: Trees Find Second Home as Fish Habitat

In most homes across America, signs of the holidays are slowly disappearing. Festive bows and wrapping paper has been discarded, New Years confetti has been swept up, and left over cookies are vanishing one by one. But many families leave their Christmas trees up so that a little of the holiday spirit glimmers a few more days. For some, the sparkling lights and homemade ornaments bring joy in an otherwise bleak winter month. But for others, the hesitation to break down the tree stems from a core question: “What am I going to do with this huge tree?”

Instead of throwing the tree to the curb to find its way to your local landfill, consider contributing to one of many wonderful recycling opportunities. In many areas, Christmas trees find new purpose as fish habitat in ponds and lakes. Typically, some of the limbs are removed to create better spacing and the tree is attached to cement blocks and sunk to the bottom. This practice results in a reef-type structure that serves as a hiding place for many species of fish and invertebrates. As the tree decomposes, it can also provide nutrients that feed the growth of plankton, which in turn boosts the food web.

Location and proper placement is important, which is why you don’t want to just take your tree and throw it into a local pond yourself. Local programs and agencies work to carefully identify areas that are in need of additional habitat and modify the trees to maximize use by local fish species. Depth, current, and surrounding structures are all considerations when deciding where to place these trees. Each pond or lake will have slightly different needs and locations may change from year to year. If you really want to know where your tree ends up, ask if the program is accepting volunteers to help with preparing the trees for deployment.

Okay, I’m convinced. Where can I donate my tree? Contact the relevant agency in your state, such as a department of conservation, department of fish and wildlife, or Army Corp of Engineers to inquire about programs in your area for recycling Christmas trees. Also, keep an eye out in local newspapers or TV news stations for advertisements and articles. Once you’ve identified a local program to contribute your tree to – share the information with friends and family so they can become involved as well!

I tried, but I can’t find a local program to recycle my tree. Should I just give up?
Not yet! If you have a big backyard, or property adjacent to a forested area, you can use the tree as a base of a brush pile that benefits local wildlife. You can even redecorate the tree with animal friendly treats that provide food during winter when it is often scarce. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have many more great tips for building a backyard habitat with your tree: Click here for link.

Additional Reading
Keep America Fishing website: Christmas Trees for improved fish habitat
News article: Clayton Lake collecting Christmas Trees for fish habitat
News article: Recycled Christmas trees will make fish habitat and mulch
News article: Christmas Tree recycling

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