The Conservationist and the Christmas Tree

Yesterday ( December 5, 2001 ) I had a Social Security Hearing in Winchester, Tennessee. It was a beautiful day and the drive to this rural town in Franklin County was delightful.

After the conclusion of my hearing I took advantage of my proximity to McMinnville, Tennessee ( the nursery capital of the South ) and took a little side trip to purchase some trees. I have been to McMinnville many times and I am always impressed with the thriving nursery business there. I purchased a couple Leland Cypress trees in 3 gallon pots, which Beth plans to use as a table top Christmas tree. Just for fun I bought a holly called “sky-pencil” holly, just to have something unusual. These will wind up planted in the yard after Christmas.

Of course, with it being the Christmas season, there were all kinds of Christmas Trees for sale. Some “cut” trees and some balled and burlap trees ( that means with the root and suitable for planting in the yard after using it as a Christmas tree).

We moved into our house in fall of 1983. Since that time we have planted numerous trees and bushes which were Christmas trees. Our first tree was a White Pine and it lives now in our front yard. I have a picture of Beth next to the tree when we planted it, it was about her height. Five feet, two inches. Today the tree is 50 feet tall!! It shades our house from the hot afternoon sun in the Summer time. The border of our property has Hemlock trees which were our present to the house one year. The back line has a collection of White Pine trees of varying ages, representing several holidays. Not all the trees we planted survived, but most did.

I must say that each year at Christmas I am disappointed to see some many trees cut, used for a couple of weeks, then thrown in the mulch pile, or shredded to make trail surface for the parks. This seems wasteful to me. True, it does require a little planning and a little effort to use a live and plant able tree. But, I think, a considerable amount of effort and energy goes into the production of trees for Christmas. It is an entire industry. Only to have nothing remaining is a great waste of energy.

I suppose that there is very little we can do if private people choose to be wasteful. However, people who feel that they are Conservationists should be intentional in their celebration of the season.

From a public policy prospective, The State of Tennessee, Division of Forestry sells White Pine and other seedlings from its new tree nursery at Polk County. Seedlings are propagated and made available to the private landowners for reforestation. This is a good thing. Trees are made available to our nursery industry for liner stock and to the timber industry for wood production. Unfortunately seedlings are also made available to the Christmas Tree growing industry, this is wasteful. It seems to me that in the reforestation of Tennessee, we do not have trees to spare! These State subsidized trees need to end up in the forest or in our cities and towns rather then on the trash heep.