Great Falls named outstanding urban forestry community of the year

Great Falls has been named the outstanding urban forestry community for 2018 by the Montana Urban and Community Forestry Association.

The nonprofit will be present the award during next week’s City Commission meeting.

Todd Seymanski, city forester announced the award during Monday’s Park and Recreation Advisory Board meeting.

The association gives out these awards annually and according to their request for nominations, the outstanding urban forestry community award is given to “the local city or county administration, tree board or committee that has made outstanding accomplishments in completing urban forestry projects, provided exemplary tree care leadership, and made significant progress in meeting the goals of their local urban forestry program.”

City forestry completes 7-year project of hazard tree trimming

The city maintains 13,331 trees in the Boulevard District, which includes a special assessment on property owners in that area that funds maintenance, trimming and replacement of those trees, as well as leaf pickup.

In addition to the boulevard trees, the city maintains trees in parks, on trails and the municipal golf courses for a total of about 36,000 public trees.

Great Falls celebrates Arbor Day, public forest

Great Falls has a longstanding commitment to the urban forest, dating to the 1890s when Paris Gibson, the city’s founder, and other settlers planted thousands of trees. The city’s public forest is now valued at more than $77 million, according to the city.

Great Falls has been a member of the Tree City USA program for 36 years, longer than any other Montana city in the program run by the Arbor Day Foundation.

A study conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined that every urban tree contributes an average of $350 per year to the community in direct environment benefits. These benefits include reduced heating and cooling costs, greatly reduced stormwater runoff, less erosion, reduced pollution through carbon sequestering, and others. Based on this report, the city’s public trees provide more than $11.5 million annually in direct environmental benefits.

“The indirect social, economic, and aesthetic benefits that trees provide to a community have not been quantified but are thought to be much higher than the direct environmental benefits,” according to the city’s forestry department.

In late 2017, the city completed a seven-year project of hazard tree trimming.