Recycling Christmas Trees Rebuilds Local Fish Habitat
Christmas trees discarded after the holidays find new purpose in various cities--whether they're ground up for gardening mulch or used to build up beach dunes and prevent erosion. In West Virginia, the leftover evergreens can provide homes for fish and their young. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Rehabilitation Environmental Action Plan (REAP) and West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) will accept undecorated trees for recycling on Jan. 2 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Capitol Market in Charleston.
Used in this way, Christmas trees provide additional protection for stream fish, such as bass, crappie, bluegill, and catfish, and others. Many studies have shown that fish utilize underwater structures for cover and to build their nests around.
The West Virginia DEP will accept trees of any size, providing they are real trees and all ornaments, tinsel and string lights have been removed. The donated evergreens will create fish habitat in several bodies of water, including Stonecoal Lake, Burnsville Lake, Big Ditch Lake, and Tygart Lake, according to a news release.
Not only does recycling Christmas trees keep excess waste out of landfills, but it also provides a cheap alternative for fish habitat restoration. Evergreens are easy to place in ponds and lakes and will last for several years. Most importantly, their branching patterns make a cool lodging place for fish of all shapes and sizes.
To create new homes for fish, four or five trees are bundled together at the bottoms of their trunks, and concrete blocks are tied to weigh them down. Bundles are placed at varying depths, but not too deep as to limit the amount of oxygen available for fish. Ultimately, this creates a "reef" that extends from the shore to deeper waters, so that the trees can be utilized by all kinds of fish--from young fish that tend to stay near the shallow areas, to mature fish that go into deeper waters of the lake.
Those who donate their Christmas trees will be entered to win several prizes, varying from ski packages, to 18 holes of golf and gift certificates. In essentially every state, including Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, and New Hampshire, one can find programs to upcycle Christmas trees after the holidays.
For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).
-Follow Samantha on Twitter @Sam_Ashley13