updated 11/23/2005 4:11:35 AM ET 2005-11-23T09:11:35

For the past few years, Christmas decorations in the form of tinsel, embellished paper plates and shiny CDs have begun popping up in the majestic trees lining the highways of Arizona’s Red Rock country.

But forest officials have another name for these impromptu ornaments: litter.

“We’re not trying to be Scrooge here, but it’s to the point that so many decorations are put up that there are a couple of problems,” said Karen Malis-Clark, a spokeswoman for the Coconino National Forest.

Now, the Forest Service is threatening to enforce a federal anti-littering code that calls for fines of $150 to $5,000 or up to six months in jail.

The decorations typically start showing up over the Thanksgiving holiday. Between 50 and 80 trees were decorated last year, down from nearly 200 the year before, said Connie Birkland, spokeswoman for the forest’s Red Rock District.

The ornaments can distract drivers, officials said. They also fear some of the materials could be eaten by small animals.

Most of the decorators also appear late at night or in the early morning, pulling off the highways in unsafe areas and endangering other drivers and themselves, Birkland said.

“Our strategy is to remove the decorations as quickly as possible so that it doesn’t encourage more,” she said.

Birkland said the Forest Service has never supported decorating the trees, but did not enforce the anti-littering code previously “in the spirit of Christmas.”

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