As a part of the Natural Resources program, I encourage residents to think about the impact their everyday choices have on our natural resources, both positively and negatively.
Transporting firewood, trees and other vegetation can serve as a vector for the spread of invasive exotic species; as a result, Florida prohibits the movement of firewood more than 50 miles from its place of harvest to reduce the spread of these hitchhikers. Christmas trees do not fall under this regulation and are regularly imported from the Carolinas, Virginia, and other Appalachian states to satisfy residents’ desires for a ‘real Christmas tree.’ Please note, there is nothing particularly bad about this arrangement; they have gorgeous trees and people love them.
I bring this up as a teachable moment for our office because right here in Polk County we have the opportunity to harvest a local tree, help a local State Forest reduce its fire fuel levels, save money (only $10/tree), reduce the risk of spreading invasive exotic pests and reduce your carbon footprint. The Lake Wales Ridge State Forest offers Sand Pine trees as a local alternative species for Christmas trees. This species has a fascinating life cycle that can lead to thickets of young trees when fire rotation is disturbed by too-few or too-frequent fires. To help reduce the fuel load, the trees are offered for $10 as Christmas trees to the public. I will be harvesting one of these trees to use as an in-office demonstration of local trees.
If you are interested in this project, please see the following ways you can help:
· Donating a used tree stand for fresh-cut trees (for trees between 4 and 7 feet tall)
· Donating a strand of LED Christmas Lights (since the tree will be unsupervised, we cannot use incandescent mini-lights)
· Contacting me if interested in going to harvest the tree or to help decorate it (likely Extension themed or ‘green’ ornaments)
· Share my Christmas Tree fact sheet I created (attached) and encourage people to check out a regional tree-farm or the Lake Wales State Forest for a local tree (flier attached)
Thanks for your time!
Thank you and have a great day,
Natural Resources and Conservation Agent
UF/IFAS Extension Polk County