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Christmas trees will be used to help provide fish habitat

Katie Vivian, FWP Choteau-area fisheries biologist
Posted at 8:34 AM, Dec 22, 2021

Christmas is still a few days away so you may not be thinking about getting rid of your tree yet, but when the time comes 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,” Vivian said.

A way, you might say, to make the Christmas spirit last long after the holiday is over.

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 the Balfour Beatty Community Center on Malmstrom Air Force Base from December 27 through January 7. No artificial trees will be accepted and trees cannot have any decorations on them.