Riverside County residents who recycle their Christmas trees this season will be helping protect little fish.
The county's Department of Waste Management is giving trees dropped off at county landfills to the state for a program aimed at securing fish habitat.
The Board of Supervisors endorsed the effort in November, when Waste Management Director Hans Kernkamp announced that the California Department of Fish and Game would be using discarded Christmas trees in an attempt to fortify Lakes Elsinore, Gregory, Hemet and Perris to preserve small fish populations by protecting them from larger predatory fish.
"Trees are sunk to a depth of 10 to 15 feet in lakes that have very little vegetation to provide a place for the smaller fish to hide," according to a waste management document. "Each tree is drilled at the base, and a rope is tied to a concrete block weight and then sunk."
Conifers will be collected at the Badlands, Blythe and Lamb Canyon landfills and turned over to DFG personnel.
The county's free curbside tree pickup service will be running as usual in most areas for the next two weeks, though trees gathered at residences will be taken to waste processors and converted to mulch.
Residents were asked to ensure that all decorations, including tinsel, are removed from the trees, which should be laid adjacent to green waste recycling containers on trash pickup day. Trees more than four feet tall need to be cut in half, according to county officials.
They said flocked trees will not be recycled and should be chopped up and dumped in trash receptacles.
Waste management anticipates collecting around two tons of discarded trees in the post-holiday season. Officials said trees not recycled will use up "valuable space" at county landfills and urged residents to recycle.
Nearby drop-off locations for southwest Riverside County residents wishing to contribute to the effort include:
—A. Lua Wood Recycling, 18938 Mermack Ave., Lake Elsinore;
—B.P. John Recycling, 28700 Matthews Road, Romoland;
—Green Waste Recycling, 32665 Mission Trail Road, Lake Elsinore; or
—Riverside County Badlands Landfill, 31125 Ironwood Ave., Moreno Valley.
—City News Service