How recycled Christmas trees help restore a stressed coast

Dan Upham

What is that helicopter doing, hauling an old Christmas tree into a precious Louisiana marsh?

Over the last few years, thousands of these trees have been popping up in the Bayou State’s coastal areas, but it’s not a case of illegal dumping. It’s all about restoring a stressed ecosystem.

The City of New Orleans collects the trees after the holiday season and puts them to good use. Last year, more than 12,000 trees were collected in Orleans Parish alone to help create a new marsh habitat east of the city. Project cost: about $1 per tree.

“Basically, they go around collecting trees after the holidays, and they put them in structures called cribs along the shores, to help fortify the banks,” explains Liz Van Cleve, communications manager for Environmental Defense Fund’sMississippi River Delta Restoration program. “The natural material helps hold sediment and sand in place, acting as a support and a base for new plants to grow on.”

Think of it as a gift to the restoration cause, and a nice way to extend the magic of the season. In Bayou Savage, where the trees from New Orleans end up,  175 acres of marsh have been recreated since the program began 15 years ago. 

“It’s a nice, tangible, thing we can do to help restore their coast,” Liz says. “In a state that’s losing a football field worth of land every hour, every little bit helps.”

See the video below for more on this example of nature restoring nature par excellence:

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