MDC says recycled real Christmas trees ‘a special gift’ for fish, wildlife habitats

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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – As the holiday season closes, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) recommends offering your live Christmas tree – completely cleaned of all tinsel, lights, and ornaments – to fish and wildlife in your area, as they can utilize its branches as year-round shelter.

Salvador Mondragon, MDC Fisheries Management Biologist, said Christmas trees can easily be used to improve habitat in ponds, lakes, or even a backyard.

“Natural habitat is always preferred over artificial structures, and that makes live Christmas trees a great option,” he said. “Especially when larger trees aren’t available. But keep in mind Christmas trees won’t last long in a pond and will usually require adding on a yearly basis.”

Mondragon said clusters of 15 to 20 trees provide better fish habitat than one or two trees. He recommends placing trees in water depths where the tops are still visible from the surface, and that will ensure that the habitat is used year-round.

“The trees will provide added brush that gives fish resting areas, shade, and places to hide from predators,” he explained.

Above water, MDC Community Forester Jennifer Behnken said recycled Christmas trees can be used for backyard habitat as “a special gift” for small wildlife, such as rabbits and songbirds.

“Real Christmas trees are a sustainable resource that provide a multitude of benefits until they are harvested for the Christmas season, including providing oxygen, air filtration, and wildlife habitat,” she said.

After the intended purpose for Christmas festivities, the trees continue to contribute the benefit of wildlife and natural resources, said Behnken.

“I place my living Christmas tree outside for brush habitat or for birds to take cover during the winter months,” she said. “It continues to break down as the year progresses, providing nutrients back to the soil and its legacy lives on in the natural world.”

Find information about live Christmas tree uses online at