Southeastern to collect discarded Christmas trees to enhance wetlands
HAMMOND – Southeastern Louisiana University is asking area citizens to give the environment a gift after Christmas this year. Discarded Christmas trees can be dropped off and used for a student conservancy project rather than throwing them out with the trash.
“We can put the old Christmas trees to work in our area marshland while also reducing the waste stream going into landfills,” said Rob Moreau, manager of Southeastern’s Turtle Cove Environmental Research Station located on Pass Manchac between lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas.
Although grant funding from the state ended years ago, local partners have stepped up with donations to fund the collection of trees and make the project possible. This marks the 23rd straight year Southeastern has conducted its recycled tree program. Moreau depends on volunteers and students to deploy the trees in the Manchac wetlands. More than 36,000 trees have been deployed through the Southeastern program since that time.
Southeastern scientists at Turtle Cove use the discarded trees to help build up marshland in areas that have been impacted by erosion and other factors, said Moreau.
Moreau said the trees will be used to continue a project to determine whether the recycled trees can help fill in logging ditches, formed when the area’s cypress forests were cut down over a hundred-plus-year span. A second project started last year involves the creation of Christmas Tree “mounds” to create habitats for small mammals, reptiles and birds. The success of that study will be expanded over the next several years as well.
“The ditches allow salt water intrusion and increase the erosion process,” Moreau said. “Under the supervision of biology researcher Dr. Gary Shaffer, we will place trees in some selected ditches to continue studying sediment accretion impacts. We’ll monitor and evaluate this process over the next several years to determine its feasibility. If successful, this technique could be used in other similarly stressed ecosystems in coastal Louisiana.”
Partnering in the project for the fourth year is the Southeastern Sustainability Center on North Oak Street, which will serve as a drop-off point for area residents to leave their used Christmas trees. Other partners include the city of Hammond and Middendorf’s Restaurant in Manchac, as drop-off sites.
- Trees can be dropped off beginning Jan. 2 through Mardi Gras from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Hammond Maintenance facility, 18104 Hwy. 190, next to Piggly Wiggly Super Market.
- The Southeastern Sustainability Center, 2101 North Oak Street, will collect trees beginning Jan. 4 through the end of the month from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 to 10 a.m. on Friday.
- Turtle Cove trailer drop off site will also be maintained at Middendorf’s Restaurant beginning Jan 4.
The City of Hammond will provide transport of collected trees to the Turtle Cove Galva Canal parking lot area in Manchac where they will be stored until they are deployed in the marshes in March.
No flocked trees will be accepted, and all trees should be stripped of any ornaments, lights, tinsel, stands, nails and screws, etc.
Moreau said the benefits of the tree recycling program include protection against shoreline erosion, building of land to offset subsidence and sea-level rise, creation of new habitats for plants and animals and reducing waste going to landfills.
“The program is also a great way to conduct community service and environmental education from a hands-on standpoint,” he said.
Additional information can be obtained by visiting the website at www.southeastern.edu/turtlecove
Donations to help support the activity can be sent by check payable to “Friends of Turtle Cove” and mailed to Southeastern Box 10585, Hammond, LA 70402 or can be made by credit card by visiting the Turtle Cove web site and under the “Friends and Donors” link.