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City of New Orleans Partners with State, Federal Agencies on Annual Christmas Tree Drop to Restore Coastline

Image courtesy of City of New Orleans, Mayor's Office.

NEW ORLEANS — The City’s Office of Resilience and Sustainability, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Louisiana Army National Guard, today conducted the City’s annual Christmas Tree Drop.

Residents placed their trees curbside for collection in January to participate in the Christmas Tree Recycling Program. There was a 37% increase in recycled Christmas trees in 2021 – the City’s Department of Sanitation filled 59 trucks full of trees. The 2020 Christmas Tree Drop did not occur due to limitations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 Christmas Tree Drop includes the trees collected for the 2020 Christmas Tree Drop.

Working collaboratively, the City’s Department of Sanitation; waste management contractors Metro Service Group, Richard’s Disposal and Empire Services; the City’s Office of Resilience and Sustainability; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and the Louisiana National Guard collected, sorted, and bundled the recycled trees. Today the bundled trees were airlifted by the Louisiana National Guard into the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge to create new marsh habitat. After the trees were dropped by helicopter, workers came by boat to move them to their final position. Over the course of this program, recycled Christmas trees have restored an area of marsh equal to almost 200 football fields. The trees also create an important habitat for birds, fish, crabs, crawfish, and shrimp.

The transporting of the trees via helicopter provides the Louisiana Army National Guard a valuable training exercise. The City’s Office of Resilience and Sustainability provides funding and collaborates with the Department of Sanitation for this effort. This program has been running for over 20 years and serves an important role in the City’s coastal program.

In addition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, other participating agencies included the City of New Orleans Department of Sanitation, the National Wildlife Federation, Leaaf Environmental, and the Louisiana Army National Guard.

“The City’s Christmas Tree Recycling Program has helped restore the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge for over 25 years. We are grateful to our residents who chose to recycle their Christmas trees, putting them to good use protecting our wetlands while also keeping them out of landfills. We look forward to many more years of community involvement in coastal restoration efforts,” said Katie Donahue, Coastal Resilience Program Manager, Office of Resilience and Sustainability, City of New Orleans.

“Being able to participate in the Christmas Tree Drop every year is invaluable in not only helping our community by restoring the coastline but in getting some sling-load training ahead of flood and hurricane season. Developing those skills in a controlled environment allows our flight crews to be ready to complete their missions in a fast and efficient manner in the event of real-world emergencies,” said Gabriel Ruiz, Chief Warrant Officer 3, Louisiana National Guard.

“Thanks to this recycling project, the wetland ecosystem that helps protect the city during storm events, shelters native wildlife and provides migratory waterfowl habitat will be revitalized by Orleans parish sustainability efforts,” said Shelley Stiaes, Refuge Manager, Bayou Sauvage.

“Every year recycled Christmas trees from New Orleans residents are placed in strategic locations out in Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge to help reduce wave action, slow erosion, and protect the natural marsh and shoreline. The trees also trap sediments that over time help create new habitat for birds, fish, and other wildlife. At a time when protecting and restoring our natural resources and defenses is more important than ever, the Christmas tree recycling program is a great way for communities to get involved in restoring the coast,” said Samantha Carter, Outreach Manager, Gulf Program, National Wildlife Federation.

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