Christmas tree harvest helps tackle invasive spruce trees

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WATCH ABOVE: A Christmas tree harvest was held by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, which gave people a chance to take a tree home by removing invasive spruce trees. Rebekah Lesko reports – Dec 9, 2017

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) gave people a chance to chop down a Christmas tree and take it home for free on Saturday afternoon.

NCC held the Christmas tree harvest on Dec. 9 on its Messier property, which is about a 40-minute drive northeast of Saskatoon.

READ MORE: Land near Dundurn, Sask. to be turned into protected grassland site

The idea is to help tackle invasive spruce trees in the area.

Kyle Drake and his daughter, along with 24 other groups, picked out their tree.

“I saw there was an opportunity to get a free Christmas tree, come out for a walk, and be outside. I thought we’d come out and chop down a tree that needed to be chopped down,” Drake said.

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“We’ll go home, put it up and get it decorated and eventually start putting presents under it.”

The NCC said coniferous trees typically don’t occur this far south in the Aspen Parkland ecoregion and their presence could negatively affect native plants and animals.

“To help us to take care of some trees that were planted on the property by the previous owner and what we’ve decided as part of our management plan for the property is to keep as just aspen and grassland,” said Matthew Braun, the manager of conservation science and planning for the NCC in Saskatchewan.

“Once you have one kind of plant, you push out the other kinds of plants and animals that rely on it,” Braun said.

Spruce trees can alter the soil chemistry when they shed their needles, making the soil more acidic, which is inhospitable for other plants.

Spruce trees could also provide refuge or corridors for animals that might otherwise not be in the area.

“You’re changing the kinds of birds that will want to nest here. Spruce can be magpie and crow habitat. That changes the balance of the types of birds that will want to nest here,” Braun said.

READ MORE: NCC scientist pens essay to save world’s most endangered ecosystem, grasslands

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The Messier property provides habitat for white-tailed and mule deer, ruffed and sharp-tailed grouse, and coyote.

The NCC has conserved 150,000 acres of ecologically significant land in Saskatchewan through land donations, purchases, and conservation agreements.

The organization recently bought a parcel of land near Dundurn that will be turned into a protected grassland site.