Two donors brought greenery to the Rocky Mountain College campus for Earth Day, working with the RMC Environmental Club.
Bradley Shoemaker, forester for the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Southern Land Office, brought a 10-foot silver maple sapling that the environmental club helped to plant.
Jerry Anderberg of Billings Landscape Associates donated an arbor vitae by Fortin Education Center. Mature arbor vitaes make up the row of rich evergreens over the sidewalk west of Bair Family Student Center. Anderberg has given a tree yearly for several years to the RMC campus.
The RMC campus is a rich oasis of irrigated green space in Billings. Terry Steiner, director of facility services, says, “I’ve had the opportunity to plant a lot of trees in 16 years.” Still, new plantings make a vital difference to maintain horticulture on campus.
Steiner’s office tracks every campus tree and large shrub on an AutoCAD map by species and year of planting. Because 60 percent of RMC’s older trees are native Montana green ash trees, the environmental club is helping Steiner’s office to expand planting of more diverse species.
They are responding to the potential spread of the emerald ash borer, an invasive, often deadly scourge of ash trees across the Northeast and Midwest. The borer appeared in Colorado in the last six months, so may eventually jeopardize Montana ashes.
Shoemaker is helping the Environmental Club register RMC as a Tree Campus USA, which requires continued tree-planting and maintenance.
Benefits include grant availability as well as fresh air, reduced energy expenditure on campus, increased urban wildlife habitat, and sheltering shade for the College community. “Neighborhoods with more trees have lower crime rates and increased happiness,” he said.
“[On behalf of DNRC] we’ve planted two dozen trees this last month,” in community venues across southern Montana, Shoemaker said. He explained to the environmental club how his agency also is thinning 24,000 southern Montana trees this year to increase forest health, reduce wildfire severity, and create revenue for Montana schools.
Club members work in Billings in Friday’s Arbor Day city celebrations in Pioneer Park and at a climate change rally Saturday noon by Yellowstone County Courthouse.