75° F Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Dear Editor:

Twinkling lights, garland, wreaths, and red bows are now around every corner. The holiday season is here and with that comes many time-honored traditions. One such tradition, however, is becoming an unintended threat to local wildlife and ecology.

Over the last decade, residents of the Westbank area have spread holiday cheer by decorating the Ashe junipers along Capital of Texas Highway (Loop 360), near the entrance to Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve. On the surface, this tradition may seem like harmless holiday fun, but the potential safety hazards and impact to local wildlife, including endangered species are serious consequences.

Each year, the decorations that trim the Ashe junipers have become more extensive and more elaborate, including battery powered lights that can become a fire hazard. The shiny and bright tree decorations are great at attracting wildlife, but the paint, plastic and metallic materials are a real hazard for any animal that may take a nibble. Unfortunately, the tradition of adding decorations has not included a tradition of cleaning up after the holiday. Tinsel and faded decorative bulbs litter the highway and are windswept in to wildlands and environmentally sensitive areas.

In addition to causing safety and ecological problems, tree-decorating enthusiasts should remember that trespassing and littering on private land is never a good idea. For those who wish to continue outdoor tree-decorating traditions on their own property, we encourage the use of natural and biodegradable materials that are safe for local wildlife and won’t have a negative impact on the environment.

In the tradition of New Year’s resolutions, Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve invites you to join staff and volunteers in the effort to clean up the holiday debris that already trims the roadside. To volunteer, please contact Mitch Robinson at mitchelr@stedwards.edu .

Happy holidays.

Dr. Thomas Mitzel

Interim director of Wild Basin/dean, School of Natural Sciences
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