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Disposing of your Christmas tree? You can help provide fish habitat

Christmas Tree
Katie Vivian, FWP Choteau-area fisheries biologist
Posted at 5:41 PM, Jan 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-03 11:25:49-05

GREAT FALLS — Christmas is now behind us, so if you're ready to get rid of your Christmas tree, you could give it to Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks to help fish.

Since 1990, FWP has been collecting trees in Great Falls and sinking them in the Tiber Reservoir for fish habitats.

Much of the Tiber Reservoir is iced over now, but come spring, the Christmas trees will be sunk near the dam and marina.

“That will happen in the first week of April,” said Katie Vivian, FWP Choteau-area fisheries biologist. "We get several hundred trees donated."

The trees provide a place for perch to spawn and are necessary because there's very little shoreline vegetation for them to spawn in due to fluctuating water levels in the reservoir.

"Yellow perch are a primary forage species for our walleye. They're very important for food for our popular walleye fishery,” Vivian explained.

Republic Services helps collect the trees and each year, with the help of Walleyes Unlimited, FWP disburses the trees. The dam and marina were chosen for the 2022 disbursement because they haven't gotten trees in about six years.

"Last year, we were up toward the Willow Creek arm and the year before that we were up toward South Bootlegger so this year we're focusing more on this end of the reservoir,” said Vivian. "We know that it does help the perch population. We have gone out before and checked them after a couple weeks and have seen them covered in perch eggs so we know that the perch are using them."

Don't get any ideas about taking your tree up to your favorite fishing hole and sinking it, though. "We do this under permit from the Army Corps (of Engineers),” Vivian said.

Volunteers are welcome to help sink the trees. Contact FWP at 406-444-2535 for more information.

Trees will be collected at Meadowlark Park in Great Falls and at 110 South Perimeter Road on Malmstrom Air Force Base through January 7. No artificial trees will be accepted and trees cannot have any decorations on them.