Christmas trees deliver additional gift of environmental protection
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Fort Lee Environmental Management Division employee Earl Long, a wildlife biologist, collects discarded Christmas trees from a military family housing neighborhood on post. The Integrated Training Area Management program – in partnership with EMD – is using the expended evergreens for erosion prevention. Positive outcomes include protecting training areas and reducing the amount of harmful sediment runoff that eventually makes its way into the Chesapeake Bay. (Photo Credit: Contributed photo from Fort Lee Environmental Management Division) VIEW ORIGINAL
Christmas trees deliver additional gift of environmental protection
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Fort Lee Environmental Management Division employee Tim Haug puts the finishing touches on a barrier “fence” comprised of used Christmas trees. The Integrated Training Area Management program – in partnership with EMD – is using the expended evergreens for erosion prevention. Positive outcomes include protecting training areas and reducing the amount of harmful sediment runoff that eventually makes its way into the Chesapeake Bay. (Photo Credit: Contributed photo by Fort Lee Environmental Management Division) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEE, Va. – Most people associate recycling with the reclamation of paper, plastics and drinking containers; however, many other things can be repurposed including discarded Christmas trees.

The Integrated Training Area Management program here – partnering with the Environmental Management Division – is using the ejected evergreens for erosion prevention along the banks of a Bailey Creek tributary that winds through a wooded area along Sisisky Boulevard. Positive outcomes of the project that started last year include prevention of damage to training areas and reducing the amount of harmful sediment runoff that eventually makes its way into the Chesapeake Bay.

A training area footbridge was built in that area in July 2020, and the uptick in erosion resulting from recent heavy rain events “is threatening to reduce the stability and safety of that structure,” pointed out EMD Natural Resource Manager Dana Bradshaw. The trees interlocked along the creek bank provide a preventive buffer, prolonging the life of the pathway.

“That’s one positive outcome – meeting our ITAM obligations,” Bradshaw verified.

The bushy evergreens also serve as a natural filtration system, allowing water to pass through, but keeping soil and other debris from washing downstream. Earl Long, EMD’s wildlife biologist, noted how all of Fort Lee’s water runoff affects the eco-sensitive Chesapeake Bay watershed. Sediment can kill vegetation that serves as a habitat for marine life and lowers water quality in general.

“We take the responsibility of protecting the watershed very seriously,” Long emphasized.

That effort is bolstered each year by an EMD publicity campaign educating community members about the harm of “illicit discharges” – simply defined as irresponsibly permitting trash, vehicle fluids, sewage and other toxic substances to enter the storm-water sewer system. Fort Lee maintains a permit issued by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality that enforces illicit discharge detection and elimination programs to prevent contamination of ground and surface water supplies through monitoring, inspection and removal.

“Partnering for the Christmas tree project is just one example of our efforts, and we want community members to be aware of it because it encourages people to think about recycling in different ways,” Long summarized.

“We plan to continue this project each year after the holiday season,” he continued. “This is one of the ways ITAM and the Environmental Division helps preserve the environment while keeping costs low and working with the Army (to complete the Fort Lee) mission. We could not do it without the community’s help, and we appreciate everyone working with us.”

EMD collected the 30 evergreens used in the project from residential areas on- and off-post, and created the erosion control barrier earlier this week.

For questions about this project or other conservation efforts on the installation, please contact Bradshaw at dana.s.bradshaw.civ@army.mil or 804-734-5080 or Long at earl.l.long6.ctr@army.mil or 804-765-7667.