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Discarded natural Christmas trees can benefit aquatic life in local lakes through a Christmas tree recycling program.

Farmington is once again giving residents a place to drop off their live Christmas trees and put them to further good use.

The trees are being collected on the west parking lot at Hager Lake on Progress Drive in the west side of the Farmington Industrial Park. There is a sign designating the drop-off location, and trees can be dropped off at any time through the day or night. The only other requirement is that the tree be clean and completely free of any decorations.

The city is able to reuse the natural evergreens in many different ways, such as making mulch or other ground covers. But perhaps the most interesting use is for making new homes ... for fish and other aquatic species.

Placing live Christmas trees at the bottom of lakes is a great way to give fish a natural underwater home. Many lakes in the state are man-made, and because of this they lack natural structures that can provide fish with shelter. But discarded evergreen trees make a great replacement for those structures, especially in the colder winter months.

In addition to giving fish a nice home, placing trees at the bottom of lakes is also a great way to attract more invertebrates to the habitat. Invertebrates attract smaller fish to the location, which in turn attract bigger fish. This is good news for local anglers, as it enhances the entire aquatic ecosystem and makes fish more abundant.

According to the MDC, these trees tend to specifically bring in fish that are popular among anglers, such as largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, and crappie.

The trees also offer fish somewhere to hide and protect their young, which will help the fish population continue to grow.

There are other ways to recycle Christmas trees at the end of the holiday season, such as setting it up in a backyard as a food source and cover for local wildlife. This can be done by removing all decorations from the tree and redecorating it with food items that can be eaten safely by birds, chipmunks, squirrels, and any other nearby critters.

Trees can also be placed in private lakes or ponds to provide shelter for fish, but the MDC suggests making sure the trees are properly anchored so they do not stay afloat. Tying cement blocks to the trees and submerging them at depths of over four feet is often enough to keep the tree anchored and still be accessible to fish.

For more information on local tree recycling, contact the Farmington Parks and Recreation Department at 573-756-0900. For more ideas on how to help winter wildlife by developing habitat, go online to mdc.mo.gov.

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Rachel Gann is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or at rgann@dailyjournalonline.com.

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