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CONSERVATION CORNER
For the week of December 21, 2009
Recycle Your Christmas Tree
by James L. Cummins

Let Christmas continue for months. If you recycle your live Christmas tree, you will be giving a gift to the environment. Your beautiful tree can be converted into several things – mulch, wildlife habitats, fish-spawning habitats and lake and river stabilization. And the way technology is moving in the area of cellulosic ethanol, in the near future, you may be trading in your Christmas tree for a gallon or two of synthetic gasoline.

The mulch from the trees will provide a protective barrier for the roots of other plants while preventing weeds from growing. When the mulch decomposes, it will provide the nutrients plants need to thrive.

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, pine-needle mulch helps the winter soil to retain heat. The warm soil will encourage early seeding and faster growth come spring. The mulch will then act as a stabilizer for the temperature and moisture while preventing sunlight from germinating weed seeds that compete with what you are trying to grow.

In Porter County, Indiana, a 25 acre wildlife rehabilitation site became home for recycled Christmas trees. They provide cover for birds, chipmunks, raccoons and other small wild animals. These creatures will be protected not only from predators but the harsh elements of weather.

When improving the fish habitat, many trees can be sunken in farm ponds and lakes to create habitat for small fish and encourage the larger fish to scale on the outskirts. This helps create favorite fishing spots for our young anglers. Christmas trees have created some of my favorite places to fish on some of the gravel pits I fish in along the Tombigbee River in Northeast Mississippi and in the oxbow lakes of the Delta.

In Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, a conservation project was started in 1986 to help rebuild the coastline. They were losing approximately 25 to 35 square miles of coastal wetlands each year. To date, over 1.5 million Christmas trees have been recycled to create over 8 miles of tree fences and restored close to 300 acres of marshland. This effort proved to be very valuable when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.

Before you turn your tree over to the environment, be sure to remove everything including all ornaments, wire, hooks, lights, tinsel, garland, nails, screws and the stand.

There are approximately 35 million real Christmas trees sold in the United States every year. Our environment can benefit from your donation. The nearest recycling program can be located by logging onto www.realchristmastrees.org or by calling 1-800-CLEANUP.


James L. Cummins is executive director of Wildlife Mississippi, a non-profit, conservation organization founded to conserve, restore and enhance fish, wildlife and plant resources throughout Mississippi.