Image by TanteTati from Pixabay

I donate my tree by leaving it on the curb after taking everything off it. What happens to it?

For more than 20 years, the last gift under the Christmas tree in southeast Louisiana has been the tree itself. Stripped of ornaments and placed in wetlands, recycled trees find a second life as habitat for birds and fish and protection for the state’s fragile coastline. Residents know to remove lights, tinsel, garland, ornaments and stands, and to place trees outside for collection between Jan. 10 and 15. But not everyone knows the trip that the trees take from curb to marsh, an undertaking of contractors, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Louisiana National Guard. “It’s a big exercise,” said Cheryn Robles, chief of staff of New Orleans’ Department of Public Works. “Last year, we had 5,000 trees. It has been over 20 years, and we’ve built 200 football fields worth of marsh in that time.”

I knew it built marsh but did not know the National Guard helped. Good for them!

After contract haulers collect trees in New Orleans, their next destination is the Recovery One Landfill in New Orleans East, where the trees sit until after Mardi Gras, when the National Guard is available to move them by helicopter to the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge. Outside New Orleans, other parishes use a similar approach: Take the trees to a staging site, and later airlift them to a coastal wetlands location. The metal straps and baskets used in transporting the bundles of trees are similar to those used in emergency rescues, Robles said, and the Christmas tree airlift functions as a spring training exercise for the National Guard. “It’s the same process the National Guard uses to help evacuate people from rooftops,” Robles said. “Helping people into a basket, securing them and transporting them safely to another location is similar to how we secure trees and move them.”

I have heard of this before, even with Active Duty units. Train for your mission while helping the community.

Two helicopters, each capable of carrying 10,000 pounds, shuttle back and forth between the landfill and he Bayou Sauvage, dropping bundles of 20 trees each into remote areas designated for trees by biologists. “Once they’re placed in the marsh, federal Wildlife and Fisheries boats push them into the marsh to affix them so they don’t come loose,” Robles said. “It’s an elaborate process and amazing to watch.” Local residents often travel to the refuge’s dock to watch the drop. Officials will release the drop date next year. Once the trees are in place, they have an immediate, effect on the wetlands. “They trap sediment and provide a little bit of a home, almost like a nursery, for small fish and more than 300 types of birds,” said Kristi Trail, executive director of the Pontchartrain Conservancy. “It’s a win-win. … We keep trees out of the landfill, which is critical here in Louisiana, because we lose one football field of land per hour, and these trees can restore a couple hundred football fields in one day.”

I love win-win’s and especially when land is built. Remember to donate your tree!

What happens when they take my Christmas tree away
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