Scouts give wildlife Christmas present

Senior Patrol Leader of Boy Scout Troop 305 Connor Ferguson, 14, is shoulder deep in discarded Christmas trees early Saturday morning as he and Eagle Scout Justin Seymour, 16, (at left) loaded trees into a truck-pulled flatbed trailer driven by Scout Master David Seymour. According to the Boy Scouts’ Al Sutlick, 35 Scouts showed up Saturday morning to assist with the annual tree gathering and trip to the Bennington Lake area for distribution of trees as wildlife habitat.

Senior Patrol Leader of Boy Scout Troop 305 Connor Ferguson, 14, is shoulder deep in discarded Christmas trees early Saturday morning as he and Eagle Scout Justin Seymour, 16, (at left) loaded trees into a truck-pulled flatbed trailer driven by Scout Master David Seymour. According to the Boy Scouts’ Al Sutlick, 35 Scouts showed up Saturday morning to assist with the annual tree gathering and trip to the Bennington Lake area for distribution of trees as wildlife habitat. Photo by Jeff Horner.

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Along with eliminating discarded evergreens from Walla Walla streets, the Christmas trees collected by the Boy Scouts will help provide habitat for Bennington Lake area bunnies and other woodland creatures.

WALLA WALLA — How much wood would a Boy Scout chuck if a Boy Scout could chuck wood?

It’s hard to say what a single Scout could handle, but working together this weekend a team of 37 local Scouts will carry, haul and chuck about 1,500 fir and spruce trees in what has become a decades-old after-Christmas tradition of sorts.

“It’s fun because you are loading up trees and you get to see people who are happy,” Cub Scout Pack 306 member Matthew Reser said.

All day Saturday, the 10-year-old took part in the annual Scouts Christmas tree collection, with seemingly little concern to the cold or other hazards.

Nevertheless, the always-prepared boy added, “No mishaps. Just have to watch out for the eyes.”

Troop and pack leaders were uncertain when it all started, but probably about 30 years ago Scouts started collecting trees to perform a community service and raise extra funds.

“The whole idea is the community service part. If people want to help out (with a donation), great. If not, that’s OK. It’s something we can do to make a difference,” Troop 305 Scout Master David Seymour said.

From 8:30-3:30 p.m. on Saturday, and again today, Scouts and their accompanying adults drove around in a half-dozen rigs that were towing mostly flat beds. When a discarded Christmas tree was spotted, a rig would pull over and, after a quick check for any forgotten ornaments, the tree was loaded and a donation letter was left at the door.

Once a flatbed was brimming with foliage, it was off to Bennington Lake for repurposing.

Rather than dump the trees in the landfill, local Scouts teamed up with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make habitats for small game.

Natural Resource Specialist Jeremy Nguyen explained that the Corps piles the trees at several remote locations surrounding the lake, where they serve as cover for small game, include pheasants, rabbits, quail and mice.

“They usually last two or three years and then you have to put new trees on them,” Nguyen said, as he helped Scouts set out the new homes for wildlife.

It didn’t even matter if there was a little tinsel stuck to them; Nguyen said the birds will use it to make nests.

Even flocked trees, once excluded from the program, can now be added to the heap.

“These days it (flocking) is more water soluble. And you don’t see as many of those anymore,” Nguyen said.

By the end of today, local Scouts will have raised close to $6,000 to be used to pay for camp and other equipment, Seymour said.

Cub Scout Pack 309 Master Al Sutlick said the Christmas tree collection is not unique to Walla Walla. All across the nation, Scouts are collecting trees this weekend. But most of those trees will end up shredded and turned into compost.

“There are other troops that do it in the country. But we have been doing it about as long as anybody else, and not everybody does it the same,” Sutlick said.

If you missed this weekend’s Christmas tree collection, Scouts will hold a second collection later this week.

Residents wishing to participate are asked to send an email with their address to treepickup@troop305.net.

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