By JIM ABRAMS

While many have chosen the convenience of displaying an artificial tree during this festive season, there are still an estimated 25-30 million natural, renewable Christmas trees sold each year. Heirloom ornaments accompanied by the crisp smell of pine harken pets and family together to pose for moments that will exist in photographs and memories for decades to come.

Unfortunately, after the Christmas holiday has passed, they’re stuck with disposing of the needle-dropping carcass. As the foot-jabbing remnants are swept from the floors, the tree is carefully ushered out the door over old bed sheets, and as it finally lands in the yard, the question comes — “Now what?”

While many communities offer pick-up and composting of the old pine, there are other possibilities. These trees can still benefit local wildlife, the soil in your yard, angling opportunities and other creative projects.

The first step is to be sure that all plastic bags, tinsel, ornaments and any other nonbiodegradable items are removed. Once done, it’s time to make a decision. Here are some easy ways for you to help wildlife or enrich your local area with the tree that was once part of your family history.

If you have children in the home, here’s a chance to allow the tree to become a learning experience for them. Prop the tree upright and turn it into a wildlife feeding station. Winter can put stress on wild critters as they search for food sources. With just a little work (it will translate into fun and memories for the kids), you can attract new feathered ornaments to your Christmas tree.

Sewn strings of popcorn, Cheerios, raw peanuts, cranberries, grapes and crackers make attractive garland. Thinly sliced apple and orange pieces as well as pinecones layered in a mixture of peanut butter, oatmeal and bird seed can also be hung individually from small pieces of string.

Another more ambitious effort might be to grab some of the used trees from your friends, find a nice, rural setting and .. with permission of course … create a brush pile. Made up of tree limbs, logs and leaves, these creations can benefit wildlife for several years. They offer feeding opportunities and safe hiding locations from both the weather and predators.

Pond owners and some wildlife agencies eagerly use collected Christmas trees to enhance aquatic habitat for fish. The trees are weighted down in groups and are either submerged from a boat or strategically placed on the ice to await the spring thaw to do the job. The results include a hiding and rearing area for fish and increased aquatic insect activity, which becomes a fish’s smorgasbord and creates a hunting zone for larger fish; exactly the kind of spot you’ll want to remember when it’s time to wet a line.

Gardeners may want to consider cutting the tree up a bit or even running it through a chipper and adding it to their mulch pile. This allows nature to literally help return it to the land. One day its remnants could be added to the soil that’s used to pop up your favorite tomatoes.

Then again, why wait on the tomatoes when you can just eat the tree? Londoners Lauren Davies and Julia Georgallis are working as a team to find new edible opportunities for your Christmas tree. “My design work concentrates on aromatics and Julia experiments with unusual ingredients and recipes. We’re both interested in finding exciting ways of looking at sustainability and waste reduction,” Davies said.

What have they come up with? Blue Spruce and Ginger Ice Cream, Beetroot and Spruce-Cured Salmon, Spruce Pickles and Pine-Smoked Cauliflower — and they’re still working at it. Come to think of it, I did find a spot near a Michigan trout stream called Northern Latitudes which boasted its own Jack Pine Gin … let’s just say that it was my “catch of the day.”

“It’s not what’s under the Christmas tree that matters, it’s who’s around it.” — Charlie Brown

Along the way:

In the political cage match that has become Washington D.C., there’re apparently still a few working for their pay checks instead of posturing for future elections. On Dec. 19, Congress approved two legislative packages which include strong provisions that will further conservation efforts and benefit America’s sportsmen and women.

Notable bipartisan agreements in the bill include:

• Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act, which provides much needed flexibility to state wildlife agencies to modernize the way they recruit, retain and reactivate hunters, recreational shooters and archery enthusiasts to ensure a highly prosperous future of this legislation.

• Exempting lead fishing tackle and ammunition from the unnecessary purview of the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Environmental Protection Agency.

• Increase in funding for the National Wildlife Refuge System, a system made up of 568 individual refuges that collectively accommodate over 2.4 million hunting-related visits and 7.3 million fishing visits annually, as well as unlimited birding opportunities.

• Increase in funding to combat Asian Carp.

• Increase in funding for the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, which provides for on-the-ground wetland conservation for waterfowl and other wetland dependent fish and wildlife species.

• Increase in funding for state and tribal wildlife grants.

• Increase in funding for wild horse and burro management.

• Funding to combat chronic wasting disease (CWD), part of which includes cash to be allocated directly to state agriculture and wildlife agencies to further develop CWD surveillance, testing, management and response activities.

The bill, designated H.R. 1865, is waiting for President Trump’s expected signature to become enacted.

Step outside:

• “Stop and smell the roses” is an old idiom that’s as much a warning as advice. While its origin is lost to time, it would be sage advice for each of us to consider during the arriving year. I hope that your roses include a spring rain and a wet dog, turned earth and cut hay, the water’s edge and baking bread, a wisp of a shotshell and burning leaves, a campfire’s drift and a roasting hotdog, and myriad of others just waiting for you to rediscover. Happy New Year and with it, all the blessings allowed. Thank you for taking time to visit with me.

• Deer hunters took good advantage of the Dec. 21-22 extra weekend of gun hunting and checked 13,995 whitetails. That compares to 9,625 deer taken during the same period last season. Local harvests were:

Allen: 110 (55); Hancock: 128 (89); Hardin: 146 (112); Henry: 58 (86); Putnam: 57 (54); Sandusky: 59 (54); Seneca: 231 (147); Wood: 81 (69); Wyandot: 126 (102).

• Thursday and Friday: Trap and skeet, open to the public, 5 p.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243.

• Jan. 4-7: Statewide muzzleloading deer season.

• Jan. 5: First trap shoot of the New Year, 1 p.m., Mount Blanchard Gun Club, 21655 Delaware Township 186. Time to start that new hobby or improve on your old one.

• Jan. 15: Free venison preparation and canning seminar, 6-9 p.m., Antwerp Conservation, 17814 Road 53, Antwerp. Preregistration is required by Jan. 14. Register at https://apps.ohiodnr.gov/wildlife/educationregistration/

• Feb. 7: Deadline to enter the Ohio Wetlands Habitat Stamp juried art competition for the 2021 Ohio Wetlands Habitat Stamp. Go to wildohio.gov for the contest rules, preliminary artist’s agreement and related information. The competition is open to all artists age 18 and older who reside in the U.S.

• Hunter and trapper education class listings: Information and registration information available at http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov

Abrams is a retired wildlife officer supervisor for the state Division of Wildlife in Findlay. He can be reached at P.O. Box 413, Mount Blanchard 45867-0413 or via email at jimsfieldnotes@aol.com

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