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March 3, 2014

From holidays to habitat: trees sunk into Laurel Lake

CORBIN — By LeeAnn Cain / Staff Writer

It takes about three boys to hoist a tree over the edge of the steel boat. It lands with a muted splash, lingers momentarily, then drifts down beneath the surface. In shallower parts of Laurel River Lake, you can see green treetops, the light shining on them softened by the dark waters.

At the shore, high school students drag trees from a large pile that somewhat resembles a coniferous levy. They use zip ties to secure them to concrete blocks, then drag them onto a waiting boat where students in bright orange and red life vests hoist them aboard.

It’s hard work to recycle the once-shimmering symbol of the holidays.

The London Ranger District of the United States Forest Service, with the help of Corbin High School’s JROTC, sank more than 400 discarded trees into Laurel River Lake Friday at the Christmas Tree Sink.

According to Ranger Jason Nedlo, the Christmas Tree Sink is part of the overall mission of the state’s wildlife program to create and improve habitats for multiple species of fish.

The ranger station collected unsold or used Christmas trees from both individuals and businesses  during January to sink in the lake. The  bundled trees were dropped into different spots in the lake, where they will benefit the lake’s many fish.

The trees provide a habitat as well as food for smaller fish, Nedlo said. Fish like to hide in the sunken trees and, as the trees decay, they provide nutrients for the smaller life forms that small fish eat, according to Beth Christensen, a biologist at the London Forestry Service office.

Larger fish are attracted to the smaller fish, and anglers are attracted to the larger fish, according to Nedlo. He went on to say that anglers will take maps from the ranger’s station that show where the Christmas trees have been dropped.

“Fish love trees,” Nedlo said.

The lake is a huge tourist attraction for the area and well-known for its recreational activities that include camping, fishing, boating and swimming, so maintenance of the lake’s waters and wildlife populations is very important, Nedlo said.

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