The Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge hosted their second annual Christmas Tree Giveaway over the weekend. The refuge staff gathered approximately 100 Scotch pine trees for the community to pick from last Friday and Saturday.
The refuge invited local residents to come get their tree starting at 10 a.m. on Friday, and some even showed up 15 minutes early to get the best tree to decorate in their homes.
Tucker County resident Sheena Williams was ready to pick a tree with her family and friends. She took advantage of the Christmas tree giveaway last year as well. “I love these trees, because they hold onto their needles,” Williams said. Some giveaway participants even traveled from neighboring counties like Randolph and Barbour to cash in on the free trees.
The giveaway brought high numbers on both Friday and Saturday. “It’s actually been more than I expected,” Refuge Director Ron Hollis said. Hollis attributed this year’s increase in participation due to the warmer weather and word of mouth spreading news of the event.
Giving away Scotch pines serves two purposes for the refuge. “Scotch pine is an invasive species, so you get rid of Scotch pine and at the same time you give people the opportunity to have a Christmas tree for free,” Hollis said.
Scotch pine was often planted at old strip mining sites in West Virginia, because of its prolific and quick propagation. “We’ve got Scotch pine along certain areas of the refuge that are coming in to our grasslands and shrublands,” Dawn Washington, refuge biologist, said. “These are places that we are trying to manage for specific habitats, but are now getting invaded by Scotch pine.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service defines an invasive species as “an exotic species, whose introduction into an ecosystem in which the species is not native causes or is likely to cause environmental or economic harm or harm to human health.”
The idea of giving away the invasive trees sprouted last year when Washington and two AmeriCorps members were cutting down Scotch pine. It only took eight of the refuge staff two hours to cut down the nearly 100 trees for this year’s event. All of the Scotch pine for the event came from areas near the refuge’s visitor center, which made transporting the trees easier.
While a Scotch pine is an aesthetically unconventional Christmas tree, this did not deter many from welcoming these trees into their homes. If you missed taking a free tree home this year, do not panic. “As long as we have Scotch pine, we will continue to do it,” Hollis said.