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

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, old trees can provide shelter to birds from blustery winter nights.

"In a lot of places in Canada, your Christmas trees just end up in the landfill," Holland said in an interview Wednesday. "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 can go decorate it outside?"

The old Christmas trees may be used by common birds such as gold finches and chickadees, Holland said, as well as other birds that don't migrate to the Carolinas or South America for the winter.

Holland said old Christmas trees will improve the soil once they decompose in the spring, 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, 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 three 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 report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 31, 2020.

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