January 9, 2014

Forest Service collects trees for fish habitats

By R. Scott Belzer
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Now that the holidays have come and gone, many people find themselves putting away various decorations but are stuck with a Christmas tree. While putting trees out in the driveway next to garbage bins is the easiest way to deal with them, local environmentalists are asking for a more productive alternative.

The London Ranger District of the United States Forest Service requests that all Christmas trees be recycled for the purpose of habitat building and nutrient recycling at Laurel River Lake. 

According to Beth Christensen, biologist at the London Forestry Service office, the trees provide structural habitat diversity for fish throughout the lake.

“Once trees are placed in the lake, they decompose and add nutrients to the water,” Christensen said. “This helps develop microorganisms, which feed smaller creatures in the lake, which in turn feed bigger organisms.”

Christensen also said recycled trees provide places for fish to hide and develop algae, which helps create feeding areas. If they don’t end up at the Forestry Service, they typically end up at a landfill.

Recycling Christmas trees in Laurel River Lake has been a London tradition throughout the past decade. While its overall progress has not been monitored, the nutrients provided by the trees have made the lake quite rich and hospitable for wildlife.

The London office also coordinates with students from South Laurel High School to bring in more trees and develop a larger volume turnout.

Spanning both Laurel and Whitley counties, Laurel River Lake began as nothing more than a reservoir in 1977, created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Laurel River Lake is best known for its recreational activities, including – but not limited to – camping, fishing, boating and swimming. Its waters yield such fish as smallmouth, largemouth and spotted bass, walleye, bluegill, as well as steelhead, rainbow and brown trout.

So far, the Forestry Service has collected approximately 150 trees and hopes for at least 200.

Drop-off sites include the London Regional Recycling Center, located at 950 TLC Lane in London, or the London Ranger District office at 762 S. Laurel Road. Trees can be dropped off at anytime.

For more information, contact the Forestry Service at 864-4163 or 864-5521.