*TC Every Easter, untold numbers of baby chicks meet a cruel end once families have tired of the cute novelty.
Your ready-to-plant Christmas tree need not face the same fate.
Once the sparkle is off the tinsel this holiday season, the state of Maryland will accept living trees from those who have decided they really don't want another evergreen in the yard.
As part of the state's "Tree-Mendous Maryland" program, the donated trees will be planted along highways and in state parks.
"We tried it as a pilot program in the Annapolis area last year and got about a dozen trees," said Michael O'Brien, a spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources, which administers Tree-Mendous Maryland. "This year we decided to do it all over the state. It's a waste to throw them out. We'll do something good with it."
Officials could not say why someone would pay up to $70 for a live tree, endure the hassle and the dirt involved in hauling it into the house, and then not plant it after Christmas.
"Nobody tells me what they do with their tree after they take it home," said Claire Brunton, nursery supervisor for Garland's Gardens in Catonsville. "But you'd have to think that anyone who buys a balled and burlapped tree wants to plant it."
But if that's not the case, the state has 10 locations around the Beltway to take living trees.
The state provided the following tips for keeping the tree healthy until Santa Claus has come and gone:
* Water it from the top and don't soak the root ball in water.
* Keep it indoors for only seven to 10 days.
* Use small lights instead of the larger, hotter ones to keep the tree from drying out.
* Keep the room the tree is in somewhat cool.
"I'd hate to say we'll only take them if people don't want them, it's not exactly that," said Terry Galloway, who coordinates volunteers for the Tree-Mendous project. "We like to think of it more as a gift to nature, sort of doing God's work. Instead of seeing your tree chipped into mulch after the holidays, you can drive by someplace and see it for the next 50 years."
For more information, call 974-3776.