Southeastern is again asking area citizens to give the environment a gift after Christmas this year. Discarded Christmas trees can be dropped off and used for wetland restoration 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 for Christmas tree recycling in many areas ended years ago, local partners stepped up to keep the project going. This marks the 26th straight year Southeastern has conducted its recycled tree program. Moreau depends on volunteers and students to deploy the trees in the Manchac wetlands, and those groups were in short supply last year due to the pandemic. Therefore, he relied more on the Turtle Cove staff, mainly graduate students, to deploy the trees in various areas of the Manchac Swamp. It is estimated that approximately 40,000 trees have been deployed through the Southeastern program during the 26-year period.

Southeastern scientists and volunteers 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 explained that the trees will be used in a variety of ways, including ongoing research on the trees’ effects on helping to fill in test logging ditches, creating new habitats for wildlife and, of course, helping to control erosion along various shorelines, most recently occurring on Galva Canal and in areas around the research station itself on Pass Manchac and the boatshed/parking lot area at Galva Canal.

This practice also provides hands-on environmental education opportunities for students and other volunteers who help with the project.

Collaborating in the project for the sixth consecutive 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 primary partners include the city of Hammond and Middendorf’s Restaurant in Manchac. Several local tree farms and other businesses usually jump in on the action as well in terms of providing left over trees.

Trees can be dropped off through Mardi Gras from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Hammond Maintenance facility, located at 18104 Hwy. 190 next to Piggly Wiggly Supermarket. Trees should be dropped off using the gate on Falcon Drive next to Piggly Wiggly. The Southeastern Sustainability Center, located at 2101 North Oak Street, is collecting trees through the end of the month from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Friday. Moreau said a Turtle Cove trailer drop-off site will also be maintained at Middendorf’s Restaurant.

“The city of Hammond will again 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 the spring,” Moreau said. “Small groups of students and volunteers will socially distance and wear masks to help deploy the trees, unless of course the pandemic conditions dictate otherwise.”

No flocked trees will be accepted, and all trees should be stripped of any ornaments, lights, tinsel, stands, nails and screws, etc.

“This greatly helps our efforts to get the trees quickly deployed,” Moreau said.

For more information, contact Moreau at rmoreau@southeastern.edu or visit the website at www.southeastern.edu/turtlecove.

Donations to help support the activity can be sent by check payable to Southeastern Foundation—c/o Turtle Cove and mailed to Southeastern, Box 10585, Hammond, LA 70402.

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