Univ. Wants Christmas Trees For Manchac Wetlands Projects

Drop-off site in Hammond now accepting trees through Mardi Gras

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Southeastern Louisiana University wants your discarded Christmas trees.

Scientists at the Hammond-based university have used Christmas trees for marsh and wetlands restoration projects in the Manchac area for the past two decades. During that span, more than 36,000 trees have been put to use, the university said.

"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.

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The projects done by SLU are part of a growing effort in recent years to deploy the used Christmas trees in marshes and wetlands across south Louisiana. The trees help dissipate wave action along shorelines and collect sediment.

In St. Tammany, for instance, trees have been used for coastal restoration efforts in the Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in Lacombe. In Jefferson, trees have been used in projects in the Jean Lafitte area and in Orleans Parish, trees are used in projects in the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge.

Moreau said the recycled trees provide protection against shoreline erosion and building new land to offset subsidence and sea-level rise. The trees are also used to create new habitats for plants and animals, he said.

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The Southeastern Sustainability Center in Hammond, the city of Hammond and Middendorf's Restaurant in Manchac are partnering by providing drop-off sites for trees, the university said.

Moreau said the trees will be used to continue a running project to determine whether the recycled trees can fill in logging ditches that were cut through the wetlands when the area's cypress forests were cut down decades ago.

"The ditches allow saltwater intrusion and increase the erosion process," Moreau said.

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Scientists will monitor the 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," he said.

A second project started last year with the trees created mounds to serve as habitats for the animals in the wetlands, the university said.

Trees can be dropped off Jan. 2 through Mardi Gras from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Hammond Maintenance facility.

The Southeastern Sustainability Center, at 2101 N. Oak St., Hammond, will collect trees beginning Jan. 4 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 beginning Jan 4.

Trees must be stripped of all lights, ornaments, tinsel, stands, etc. Flocked trees will not be accepted.

For more information on the program, contact Moreau at rmoreau@southeastern.edu. For more on Turtle Cove, check out www.southeastern.edu/turtlecove.

-By Bob Warren, NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune

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