Libby celebrates 30 years as Tree City USA


A beautiful Friday afternoon last week was the perfect setting at Libby’s Fireman Park for dozens of community members to celebrate Arbor Day and 30 years as a member of Tree City USA.

Libby Mayor Peggy Williams officiated at the ceremony and shared some of the history of Libby’s joining Tree City USA.

“Thirty years ago, more than 100 trees were planted on Louisiana Avenue and nearby streets and at the school,” Williams said. “We are fortunate to have a dedicated group of people who keep the tradition alive.”

Williams credited townsman Russ Gautreaux for “being there from the start.” Gautreaux attended Friday’s planting, as did longtime board member Vicky Lawrence.

Lawrence was still in the thick of it, explaining how to properly plant the new trees being planted at Fireman Park and shoveling dirt into the hole where a lime tree was being planted. The linden tree, also called lime tree, is native to the northern hemisphere.

Williams also praised other early Tree Board members, including Mitch Riechel, Dave Freidman, Cheryl Chandler and Gary Huntsberger.

Volunteers have planted more than 400 trees in three decades.

The volunteer Tree Board awards grants to supplement city-provided funds for tree purchases, pruning and fertilizing, removal when needed, and public education projects such as spring pruning workshops.

Many people helped organize Friday’s anniversary event, including Lincoln County Forester Jennifer Nelson, Dorey Roland of Zero-to-Five, the Dusty Deans of the Lincoln County Library and April Rainey of the US Forest Service. The Libby Volunteer Fire Department also distributed helmets to the children and provided water for the new trees.

Many of the young children in attendance were also able to make pine cones, a fun artistic activity.

Stimson Lumber donated the trees that were planted, while the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation provided a grant to support the project.

Williams thanked city employees Shane Herron and Nelson for the pruning work they are doing on many of the community’s trees.

The Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City USA began in 1976. As of 2021, more than 3,600 communities have been recognized as Tree Cities. $1.4 billion has been invested in urban forestry and almost a million trees have been planted.

A thriving urban forest offers communities many benefits.

Here are just a few:

  • Trees help absorb traffic noise in urban areas by 40%;
  • Neighborhoods with trees are seven to nine degrees cooler than those without;
  • Trees reduce energy costs by up to 25% by shading buildings and protecting them from winter winds;
  • Houses with trees have higher real estate values;
  • Green spaces play an important role in improving mental and physical health;
  • Planting and tending to trees absorbs carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, thereby mitigating the effects of climate change.

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