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Here are some tips for disposing of Christmas trees:

*Wildlife habitats: Trees can be unloaded in wooded areas or sunk into fish ponds as a wildlife haven. Recycled trees provide cover for birds, raccoons, chipmunks and rabbits. Sunken trees offer a spot for fish to hide and eat. Local game departments sometimes run such programs to increase wildlife population. You can even set the tree up in your backyard as a "bird sanctuary." Before long the branches will become brittle enough to snap off and use for mulch.

*Disaster relief: Trees have been used to create natural fences to combat erosion and protect marshes from storm and hurricane waves. These all-natural fences also provide rich grounds for spawning fish. Christmas tree fences were used in this way during hurricane Katrina to protect coastlines. The same methods can be used to rebuild and protect sand dunes from ocean waves. These dunes are home to many animal populations. By donating trees, natural coastlines can be preserved and rebuilt from natural disaster.

*Mulch: Many city programs collect trees to be used as mulch in beautification projects. Because Christmas trees are not an invasive species, their mulch can be used almost anywhere. By donating your tree, you can contribute to the beauty of parks or bike trails. Alternately, you can cut the boughs off to use for protection of shrubs and other plants during the winter snows.

*Power source: In some factories across America, trees are used to create electricity! The Packaging Corp. of America in Tomahawk, Wis., uses ground-up trees to make the fuel that powers its factory. One region of Vermont is partially powered by the energy given off by burning used Christmas trees.

-- Catherine Kelkenberg