RIVERSIDE -

Riverside County residents are being encouraged to recycle their Christmas trees this season to preserve landfill space -- and help protect little fish.

The county's Department of Waste Management is giving trees dumped at county landfills to the state for a program aimed at securing juvenile fish habitat.

Under the program, which the Board of Supervisors endorsed last year, the California Department of Fish and Game uses discarded holiday trees to fortify Lakes Elsinore, Gregory, Hemet and Perris, where small fish populations are at risk from larger predatory fish. 

Trees are submerged 10 to 15 feet and anchored using ropes and concrete blocks, providing hiding places for the smaller creatures, according to county officials.

``Who knew holiday trees could make life a little better for fish?'' said waste management spokeswoman Janet Moreland.

She said the program is among the ``innovative ways'' the department is attempting ``to divert waste and preserve valuable landfill space.''

Conifers will be collected at the Badlands, Blythe and Lamb Canyon landfills and turned over to Fish and Game personnel. Trees taken to these dump sites usually come from apartment complexes and mobile home parks, according to Moreland.

The county's free curbside tree pickup service will be running as usual in most areas until Jan. 11. However, trees left outside homes are not used in the program, but instead get converted to mulch, Moreland said.

Residents were asked to ensure that all decorations, including tinsel, are removed from their trees, which should be laid adjacent to green waste recycling containers on trash pickup day. Trees more than four feet tall need to be cut in half, according to county officials.

They said flocked trees will not be recycled and should be chopped up and dumped in trash receptacles. Waste management anticipates collecting around two tons of discarded trees in the post-holiday season.
  

Trees can be dropped at the following locations:

   -- A. Lua Recycling, 18938 Mermack Ave., Lake Elsinore;    
   -- B.P. John Recycling, 28700 Matthews Road, Romoland;
   -- Badlands Landfill, 31125 Ironwood Ave., Moreno Valley;
   -- Blythe Landfill, 1000 Midland Road;
   -- Burrtec Recycle Center, 41-800 Corporate Way, Palm Desert;
   -- Burrtec-Robert Nelson Transfer Station, 1830 Agua Mansa Road, Riverside;
   -- Fish & Game Office, 10741 S. Lovekin Blvd., Blythe; and
   -- Lamb Canyon Landfill, 16411 Lamb Canyon Road, Beaumont.

``Make the last gift you give this year to the earth; recycle Christmas trees,'' Moreland said.

More information is available at  http://www.rivcowm.org.