HELENA — Pines for Perch is a program that works to recycle Christmas trees, giving them a second purpose beyond the holiday season.
The Pines for Perch program was started back in 1999 in the face of declining perch levels. The program is a joint effort between the City of Helena; Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; the DNRC; and the Boy Scouts of America.
The program works to collect Christmas trees from the holiday season. These trees are then transported to Canyon Ferry and strung together at their base with a cable and weighed down with cinder blocks. They use helicopters to drop the string of trees into the lake. The trees sink to the bottom of the lake and work as perch habitat, giving the fish a spawning area among the trees.
“You know, we're trying to do what we can, you know, at a smaller scale with the Pines for Perch. You know, there's a lot of organizations involved. It's a feel-good project. You know, everyone feels good at the end of the day that you've done something. And it's a great way to recycle Christmas trees,” says Helena Area Senior Fisheries Technician for MT FWP, Troy Humphrey.
Over the past 10 years, FWP has seen a pretty steady population for the perch and gives credit, in part, to this program. Perch are a food source for walleye. The trees provide shelter for the smaller fish to spawn and grow.
People with live, undecorated Christmas trees can drop them off at the transfer station. Additionally, on Saturday, Jan 7, the Boy Scouts will be collecting trees from people’s houses or at the appropriate drop-off locations from 9 AM – 3 PM.
A $10 donation is suggested for pick up, and a $5 donation for drop off.
These donations help the boy scouts participate in events throughout the year.
“Getting the scouts out there doing something productive for the community by picking those up is helpful monetarily obviously for because some people donate and that's awesome. So that's helpful. It also takes the load off of the city transfer station of all the trees that are collected out there and gives them something, you know, good to be part of which is this Pines for Perch project,” says Scout Master with Troop 214 Doug Wheeler.