Rebuilding the Louisiana Coastline in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana

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Santa Saves the Marsh

According to Louisiana's Department of Natural Resources, the state of Louisiana is losing 25 to 35 square miles of coastal wetlands each year. The wetlands serve an important function for the coast, as they protect the area against hurricane surges, provide natural treatment for storm water and provide a rich nursery ground for fisheries.

To fight back against the encroaching ocean, Jefferson Parish has been conducting a conservation project since 1986 using Christmas Trees. Over the years, nearly 1.5 million Christmas Trees have been recycled in this way - creating tree fences that combat erosion and slow wave action. Each year the group makes a "tree drop," using a helicopter on loan from the Army National Guard to quickly transport large bundles of trees to the alligator-laden marshes. The project has received nationwide recognition over the years for its impact on the Louisiana coast, even receiving 70 Christmas Trees from the White House in 1997.

Since its inception, the program has created 8 miles worth of tree fences and restored 250 to 300 acres of marshland. During the beating of Hurricane Katrina, these fences were even more valuable. "They worked well and really protected the shoreline behind them," said Marnie Winter, director of the Jefferson Parish Department of Environmental Affairs. "You can see where there weren't cribs (fence-like rows of Christmas Trees at the marsh's edge) the marsh really took a beating."

Louisiana's Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Department of Jefferson Parish, along with a number of volunteers and corporate sponsors, conducts an annual Christmas Tree drop to help with marsh restoration projects.