Christmas Tree Recycling Gets Fishy In Kentucky -- And The Idea Is Spreading

Each year, environmentally conscious Christmas tree lovers look for ways to recycle them. However, this year, Kentucky continues to have a Christmas tree recycling program that is a little bit fishy.

In many communities across America, Christmas tree recycling means dumping your Christmas trees in a predesignated area where they are turned into mulch. Although this is one of the best ways to keep Christmas trees out of landfills, Kentucky is using Christmas tree recycling in a whole different way.

Starting in 2014, Kentucky's Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) decided to start taking Christmas tree recycling to the bottom of the lake. By collecting old Christmas trees and sinking them into the bottom of major waterways throughout Kentucky, this government department, in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is creating fish habitats out of the dried-up Christmas trees.

On their Facebook page, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources had many positive comments from people excited to recycle their Christmas trees to help fish repopulate.

England uses old Christmas trees to stop sand dune erosion.
In 2012, the U.K. started using Christmas tree recycling programs to prevent sand dune erosion. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

This year, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources has put together an online map with about 30 locations state-wide that gives Kentuckians an idea of where they should drop off their Christmas tree for the fish-related recycling program.

Naturally, many people have questions about this Christmas tree recycling program, and since it is a relatively new idea, few online resources can be found.

Information that can be found online about Christmas tree recycling for fish usually includes tips about the decorations. For instance, in early January 2015, WLWT in Kentucky reprinted a press release about the Christmas tree recycling program and stated, "Lights, ornaments, tinsel, garland and any other decorations must be removed first."

They also stated that the purpose of the Kentucky fish-related Christmas tree recycling program was to "create fish attractors that will be submerged in lakes, providing nursery habitat for young fish and cover for larger fish … the brush cover also attracts bait fish and algae, providing food for young fish and other aquatic organisms."

Adding to this, the U.S. Forest Service is promoting the fishy Christmas tree recycling program on their website. About the advantages of Christmas tree underwater "reefs," they state the following.

"Christmas trees make cheap, but quality underwater structures. They are easy to place in the ponds and lakes, and they last for several years. More importantly, their branching patterns offer something to fish of all shapes and sizes."
But is Kentucky the only state participating in the fish habitat Christmas tree recycling program? As it appears, the idea has been gaining ground and The National Christmas Tree Association is another proud promoter. On their website about fish-related Christmas tree recycling, they quote the following study.
"During an experiment in a Massachusetts lake, state biologists saw a five-fold increase in the number of fish caught around sunken Christmas trees compared to other places in the lake."
For Christmas 2015, the idea has been catching on in other states with several news articles appearing in December that encourage communities to donate to the fish-related Christmas tree recycling program.

WRDW in Augusta, Georgia, reports on December 14 that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working with locals to recycle their Christmas trees for Thurmond Lake.

The Register News in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, reports on December 16 that their program for sinking Christmas trees to the bottom of Rend Lake has been ongoing for the past 10 years. Instead of dropping of the Christmas trees to be recycled, that community picks up the trees from the curb of residential homes.

Christmas tree recycling usually involves making mulch.
Most Christmas tree recycling programs turn the trees into mulch. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Kerr Lake in Mecklenburg County in Virginia is also advertising to locals for their new Christmas tree recycling idea to "provide increased opportunities to local anglers young and old alike to get hooked on fishing."

Although many people may now feel that recycling their Christmas tree in a local river is a great idea, the State of Missouri warns against vigilante Christmas tree recycling in local waterways with the following information on their website.

"Don't place your tree in a lake or pond that is not your own or where you have not received prior permission to do so... disposal may require a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers."
[Picture by Mario Tama/Getty Images]