Christmas Tree Recycling in Louisiana
There are a number of recycling alternatives for Christmas trees including composting
or using trees as bird feeders. Some communities even provide chipping services.
But, Louisiana has a unique approach to Christmas tree recycling. We use the trees to help restore our coastal marshes. The trees are placed in fenced areas to protect our coastline from salt water intrusion and to enhance sedimentation. In total, 600,000 trees have been placed in the Louisiana marsh in fenced corrals that now span 45,000 feet. For the 1995 Christmas season, some 100,000 trees were put to this useful purpose. Thirteen (13) parishes participated in the Department of Natural Resources, Coastal Restoration Division program.
After the trees are collected from the curbside in early January, they are stock piled
at various holding areas. At this storage yard (right) young volunteers are preparing the
Christmas trees for the next stop on their journey. First the limbs of the individual trees are tightly bound together with twine to create a the compact woody mass needed to slow the water velocity and promote sedimentation.
Placing the trees in the fenced areas in the marsh is no easy matter. It is a hot, dirty
and wet task. Small boats are typically used and the number of trips, to and from the
waterside staging area, seems endless. Load after load of trees are piled in the corals. They are submerged and compressed by the weight of volunteers standing on them. Then the top of the corals are closed with rope to prevent the trees from floating away during high water conditions.
The largest coastal restoration project in Louisiana is based in Jefferson Parish, south of New Orleans and west of the Mississippi. Here over 60,000 trees are used each year. To cope with this huge volume, the Jefferson Parish folks have enlisted the help of the Louisiana National Guard. Using Huey helicopters (UH-1) from the Army Aviation Support Facility #1 based at New Orleans' Lake Front Airport, 25,000 trees per day per aircraft can be transported. To keep non-productive flight time to a minimum, a Forward Area Refueling Point (FARP) is setup on dry land as close to the restoration site as possible. With the turbine engines still running, the Huey's are refueled and quickly return to this important task.
There are 4.1 million acres of marsh on Louisiana's southern boarder. And although
these projects have influenced only a small part, our efforts do show how precious we
believe the marshes to be. It may be hard for some to understand, but we hold dear this
uninhabitable mixture of water and muck. From it flows much of Louisiana's aquatic life.
This program proves that "there is life in dead trees".
For more information, contact:
Louisiana Department of Natural Resources
Coastal Restoration Division
Kenneth Bahlinger, Program Manager