Instead of tossing Christmas trees, wildlife agencies are urging people to donate them to be used as fish habitats. While they may not look like a great habitat when bedecked with holiday decorations, experts say that spruce, pine, and fir trees can help protect young fish from predators.

“A lot of lakes we work with are man-made and there’s not much fish cover in them, so we have to figure out how to put fish habitat in those lakes,” Missouri Department of Conservation biologist Kevin Meneau told stltoday.com. “Christmas trees are one of the best ways to do that in winter.”

Donated trees are usually connected to cement bricks and sunk a few feet under the water. Wildlife agencies ask those who plan on turning in trees to leave them whole, but remove any decorations. Since the tops of these trees usually poke above water, canny anglers can use these man-made fish habitats to their advantage. In reverse, some cities such as Columbus, Nebraska have programs where residents can pick up used trees to place in their own ponds or lakes.

“Over the years people have used them for habitat for fish spawning,” Columbus public property director Doug Moore told the Columbus Telegram. “We’ve had farmers come out and get a couple truck loads.”

For details on how you can help, contact your local natural resources office.

Image courtesy Ohio Department of Natural Resources

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