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What happens to Christmas trees in Louisiana stays in Louisiana.
Though not unheard of in the bayou state, a Christmas tree will often become a Mardi Gras tree in homes throughout Louisiana. However, the Mardi Gras tree is often an artificial tree that festive, interior decorators and the lazy alike, keep up until Easter. The Easter tree is a myth that grandparents tell their grandchildren in Louisiana to explain why “that tree” is still up four months after Christmas.
But as far as the real, organic Yuletide trees in Louisiana, there is a now-20-year-old tradition, a process that begins next week.
Combatting Wetland Erosion and Land Loss
Every new year, from January 10th to the 15th, Christmas trees that have been stripped of all ornaments and lights begin a journey by being kicked to the curb, eventually to find their way to the wetlands and the eroding coastline of Louisiana. It is a massive undertaking that can only be accomplished by the Department of Wildlife & Fisheries and the Louisiana National Guard.
This practice of creating marshlands and wetlands, adding to our state’s eroded coastline, is a relatively new Louisiana tradition. At least in the last 20 years, it has contributed to a major improvement to our wetlands. According to the New Orleans Department of Public Works, the Christmas trees (nearly 5,000 a year) have helped to create over “200 football fields” worth of marshes along the Louisiana coastline.
How The Trees Are Used
Collected Christmas trees in New Orleans are hauled from the curbs to the Recovery One Landfill in New Orleans East, where the trees sit for a while. Then, after Mardi Gras, the Louisiana National Guard flies them by helicopter to the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge.
The same is done throughout the state of Louisiana, especially in those parishes affected most by coastal erosion. Christmas trees are transported to a staging area and then dropped in critical marsh areas.
In fact, watching the helicopters drop 20 Christmas trees at a time has become a pastime for area residents with boats and access to the marshlands. Once the trees are dropped by the National Guard choppers, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries takes over as trees are pushed into place to best collect sediment. This arduous task does add to a strengthened coastal embankment. The fish and birds love it, as the trees provide nurseries for hatchlings.
Ultimately, this should be proof that mankind can affect the environment in both good and bad ways. If we can damage our environment, then we alone can also fix it. Not all of the impact on nature is negative. We only hope that Louisiana leads by example, paving the way across the nation in taking steps to grow, repair and preserve the land (and marshland) that we love and need.