State coastal management program offers guidance for recycling natural Christmas trees for dune restoration, sand fencing

Published 10:12 am Sunday, January 1, 2023

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As the holiday season winds down, the N.C. Division of Coastal Management is providing guidance to property owners, organizations and towns that plan to accept natural Christmas trees for use in dune restoration and/or beach sand fencing.

Natural Christmas trees may be used for sand fencing but must be free of decorations and should be placed in a manner that meets the state’s rules for sand fencing.

Christmas trees should be placed as far landward as possible and should not impede existing public access to the beach, recreational use of the beach or emergency vehicle access. In addition, trees should not be installed in a manner that could impede, trap or otherwise endanger sea turtles, nests or hatchlings when the nesting season returns in a few months. For example, trees should be installed at an angle no less than 45 degrees to the shoreline, no more than 10 feet seaward of the toe of the natural dune and no less than seven feet between trees.

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If sand fencing is present, a seven-foot separation between trees and sand fencing sections must also be maintained. Rows should be single tree width and not installed in conjunction with sand fencing. Unvegetated beach berms, or created “starter dunes,” are not considered natural dunes. Trees should not be placed at the seaward toe of these berms, starter dunes, or on the open beach.

To ensure compliance with all of the rules that apply to sand fencing, review the standards outlined in 15A NCAC 07K .0212 at  If the proposed layout of trees along the beachfront does not meet these criteria, applicants should submit a CAMA Minor Permit application for review. For more information, contact the local CAMA permitting authority or appropriate DCM district office.