Airlift of Christmas Trees into Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge set for May 26, 2021 

Published 5:33 pm Monday, May 31, 2021

Helicopters will be spotted near New Orleans East on Wednesday, May 26, 2021 as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) conducts its annual “Christmas Tree Drop” in Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge). Almost 4,200 repurposed Christmas trees from New Orleans residents will get a new life as breakwaters in refuge impoundments. These breakwaters will slow wave and water movement, trap silt, and encourage the growth of marsh grasses.


Following Christmas, natural, unflocked trees are collected in Orleans Parish, bundled for transport, and then delivered by helicopter to the Refuge. To limit contaminating the fragile wetland ecosystem, trees that have been “flocked” or sprayed with any type of chemical or paint cannot be utilized in the restoration project. Thanks to this recycling project, the wetland ecosystem that helps protect the city during storm events, shelters native wildlife and provides migratory waterfowl habitat will be revitalized by Orleans parish sustainability efforts.

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In addition to the Service, many other agencies are working collaboratively to implement the Christmas Tree Drop project. These agencies include the City of New Orleans Department of Public Works, City of New Orleans Office of Resilience and Sustainability, Limitless Vistas, LEAAF Environmental and the Louisiana Army Air National Guard.


The transporting of the trees via helicopter provides the Louisiana Army Air National Guard a valuable training exercise. The City’s Office of Resilience and Sustainability provides funding and collaborates with the Department of Sanitation for this effort. Last year the project was postponed due to COVID-19.  This year Orleans Parish residents will provide more than 8,000 trees to the recycling program giving the trees an important role in coastal restoration.


Limited transportation for media covering this event is available. For more information contact Refuge Manager, Shelley Stiaes at 985/285-0060 (cell) or 985/882-2026 (office). To learn more about the Refuge, please visit


The Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges complex consists of nine refuges and over 175,000 acres of coastal wetlands system that includes marshes, bottomland hardwood forests, lakes, swamps and bayous. The diversity of wildlife found here is unique to the world.


USFWS Photo Caption: Recycled Christmas trees aid marsh restoration efforts in the annual Christmas Tree Drop project at Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge.