Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Use your old Christmas tree to make new fish habitat in lakes

FRANKFORT — Those who enjoy a natural pine, cedar, spruce or fir tree for Christmas often don’t know what to do with it after the holidays. Many resort to putting it out on the street or chucking it in the backyard until spring.
You can dispose of your natural Christmas tree and provide habitat for fish by donating it to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources instead of the tree languishing in the corner of your back yard or being ground into mulch.
“Every year we try to get a large number of Christmas trees, so we can sink them as fish habitat,” said Ron Brooks, director of fisheries for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “We place them on wooden pallet habitat structures to diversify the habitat or sink just the trees themselves.”
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife will accept trees at 35 locations in 29 counties across Kentucky until Jan. 15. Trees must be natural and free of lights, ornaments, tinsel, garland or any other decorations.
“We added sites this year in our two most populous counties, Jefferson and Fayette,” said Joseph Zimmerman, fisheries habitat program coordinator for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “We added a site at McNeely Lake in Jefferson County and at Jacobson Park in Lexington. We’ve added 15 additional collection sites across the state since 2012.”
To find a convenient location near you, visit the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife website at www.fw.ky.gov and type in the keyword “Christmas” in the search engine on the top right corner of the page
The construction of most of our state-owned lakes and large reservoirs date to the period from the end of World War II to the early 1970s. As these waterbodies age, the woody cover in them melts away, leaving them starved for habitat.
“Just about all of our reservoirs and state-owned lakes have a habitat problem,” Brooks said. “The aging lakes have a bare substrate; there is not a lot of woody habitat or aquatic vegetation left, especially in reservoirs with highly fluctuating water levels.”
The Christmas Trees for the Fishes program is part of an overall effort to remedy this problem by replacing the lost habitat with items such as Christmas trees, wooden pallet stacks, buckets filled with wooden stakes, etc.