Photo: US Forest Service
While many cities have programs that turn leftover Christmas Trees into mulch and wood chips, (in NYC they call it Mulchfest, and you can go home with a bag of mulch). But in recent years, other uses such as structural aquatic habitat for fish have become more popular in many lake areas across the United States.Studies have shown that fish utilize underwater structure for cover, foraging and spawning. The trees provide a quality and natural underwater structure that is extremely affordable, since the trees are donated. The trees are easy to place in lakes and ponds and last for at least a few years. Even the limbs offer habitat for fish of various sizes and species.
The East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD), based in Oakland, California, has volunteers who bundle the discarded Christmas trees at drop-off location and then secure the tree bundles to the lake bed. Once submerged, the tree branches grow algae which then attracts insects and fish. EBRPD uses them in a different lake habitat every year.
In the city of Pineville, Louisiana, Christmas trees are used to improve fish habitats in U.S. Forest Service programs in Kincaid and Stuart Lakes. It takes about four weeks to secure trees at various sites in the lakes. The submerged trees result in increases in the number and size of gamefish. In previous years, Christmas trees in central Louisiana were transported to Cameron and Calcasieu Parishes to protect coastlines and restore wetlands.
In Ohio, trees have been used to improve fish habitat in Lake Vesuvius for bass, catfish and a variety of other species. The Lawrence County Solid Waste district collects the Christmas trees from drop-off points during January. The trees are then brought to the lake, where they are tied into bundles and weighted with cinder blocks. The weighted bundles are then submerged to improve fishing conditions.
In Lake Wappapello, MO, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been using Christmas trees as habitat since the 1980s. The trees are used to serve as fish shelters submerged in the lake and to provide additional habitat for upland game animals. The Christmas trees help replace some of the original vegetation habitat in the lake, such as stumps and other brush, that have disappeared or deteriorated. The trees attract smaller fish and minnows, which attract crappie and bass. By providing better habitat for the fish, the trees also provide better fishing opportunities. So volunteers have an extra incentive, those who help place the tree bundles may also find out where the better fishing spots are.
In NYC, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is used for habitat for another species, humans. This past weekend in NYC, workers milled the famous 74-foot Norway Spruce into 2x6 planks which will be used by Habitat for Humanity to build homes in Newburgh, New York. So whether you are a person in Newburgh, or a fish in Ohio, the Christmas trees are getting a second life in new homes.
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