NEWS & MEDIA

Southeastern to collect discarded Christmas trees to enhance wetlands

Wednesday, December 14, 2016
by: Rene Abadie


     HAMMOND – Southeastern Louisiana University is asking area citizens to do something useful for the environment with their discarded Christmas trees rather than throwing them into the trash pile.
     “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 Louisiana University’s Turtle Cove Environmental Research Station located on Pass Manchac between lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas.
     Although grant funding is no longer available from the state, local partners have pitched in to help collect the trees and make the project possible.
     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.
     Partnering in the project for the third 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 Dec. 26 through Mardi Gras from 7 a.m. to 3:30 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. 5 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. Moreau said a Turtle Cove trailer drop off site will also be maintained at Middendorf’s Restaurant.
     He said 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.
     No flocked trees will be accepted, and all trees should be stripped of any ornaments, lights, tinsel and stands.
     Moreau said the trees will be used to continue a pilot project started last year to determine whether the recycled trees can help fill in the logging ditches, formed when the area’s cypress forests were cut down over a hundred-plus-year span.
     “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 determine if they can accumulate enough sediment that might assist in filling them in. 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.”
     This marks the 22nd 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 35,000 trees have been deployed through the Southeastern program.
     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 for people of all ages,” he said.
     Additional information can be obtained by contacting Moreau at rmoreau@southeastern.edu or by visiting the website at www.southeastern.edu/turtlecove and looking under the “Events” link.
     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.




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