As spring emerges in Big Sky Country, with it comes the anticipation of summer vacations, farmers markets, gardening and enjoying the majesty of the great Montana outdoors.
For the Montana Urban and Community Forestry Program, spring is for planting trees – specifically in celebration of Arbor Day – the official observation of which in Montana is always the last Friday in April. Across the state, cities and towns will prepare Arbor Day proclamations, organize tree planting events, and encourage Montanans to think about the importance of trees in parks, lining city streets and in backyards. Indeed, planting trees has innumerable benefits, from providing shade to improving air quality and beautifying the community.
There’s a deeper connection that should be made as we plant trees for Arbor Day. It is the connection between the natural world and that of buildings, streets, schools and businesses. These two environs are not mutually exclusive; rather, their coexistence brings many benefits. Just as we recognize the importance of having well-maintained sidewalks, buildings and other hard infrastructure, so should we also value creating and maintaining street trees, greenbelts and green infrastructure.
It is the melding of the two that makes our communities beautiful, environmentally functional places to live, work and play.
Cities and towns across Montana are making investments in their community forests: they allocate resources to planting new trees, pruning existing ones and, when necessary, removing those that are diseased, damaged or otherwise present a hazard. They take inventory of the trees, develop management plans, and enlist the help of volunteers, schools and service organizations with the goal of creating vibrant landscapes within municipal boundaries.
We love to plant trees; there’s something hopeful about this rite of spring. Just remember, planting trees on Arbor Day is but one activity in support of healthy urban and community forests. Managing the forest in your community is a year-round job that requires money and work. Support these efforts by donating your time or other resources and be an outspoken advocate for tree-lined boulevards, shaded parks, clean air and water, and the value of a walk in the woods right in town.
Jamie Kirby is Montana DNRC’s state coordinator for the Montana Urban and Community Forestry Program, which is delivered in partnership with the USDA Forest Service. Information about the program is available online at the Montana DNRC website: www.dnrc.mt.gov.
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