People who feel environmentally smug because they recycle their used Christmas trees into mulch have nothing on residents of Nome. They get out their tools and build a forest.
After the holiday, residents of the windswept, arboreally challenged town on Norton Sound haul their trees across the beach and out onto the frozen sea, planting each one in a hole bored in the ice.
“It’s the only forest that goes out with the tides,” said Arnie Ashenfelter, a local substance abuse counselor who says he “planted” one of the first trees four years ago, partly on a dare.
About 120 evergreens dotted the ice last year, providing a bit of color in an otherwise monotonous landscape. The city about 150 miles south of the Arctic Circle has next to no trees because the permafrost only thaws a few feet down each summer - too shallow for most trees to take root. Christmas trees have to be shipped in.
Before the ice breaks up in the spring and takes the forest out to sea, high school students chop the trees down, salvaging the branches to be placed in streams as cover for newly hatched salmon.