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Used Christmas trees belong in the backyard instead of out front on the curb, the Nature Conservancy of Canada says.

Andrew Holland, spokesman for the advocacy group, says recycling Christmas trees can offer a better – and safer – alternative to throwing them out with the trash. For example, he says, used trees can provide shelter to birds on blustery winter nights.

“In a lot of places in Canada, your Christmas trees just end up in the landfill,” Mr. Holland said. “That’s not really good because they catch fire and produce gas. It’s just not good for the environment.”

Families can decorate the backyard trees with strings of peanuts or even pack the branches with suet so birds can have a snack while they seek refuge from the cold. “We decorate it inside,” he said, “why don’t we take the kids and the family and go decorate it outside?”

Christmas trees may be used by common birds such as gold finches and chickadees, Mr. Holland said, as well as other birds that don’t go south for the winter.

Mr. Holland said the trees will also improve the soil as they decompose, providing a habitat for other animals as the months wear on. Toads and insects will also seek shelter in the trees, he added, either under branches or inside trunks.

Dan Kraus, the group’s senior conservation biologist, said in a statement that most Christmas trees – especially spruce and balsam fir – have a low rot resistance and should begin to decompose by the fall.

To help speed up the process, Mr. Holland said the branches should be removed and holes can be drilled into the trunk. He said it may take more than two years for the tree to completely decompose but – much like trees that fall in the forest – the natural decomposition process won’t harm a backyard’s soil or garden.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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