Missoula’s urban forest is getting some much-needed attention this fall as City arborists work with residents to replace 79 dead or dying boulevard trees in neighborhoods throughout Missoula. Adjacent property owners have been notified the failing trees will be removed in the next several weeks. Missoula Parks and Recreation’s Urban Forestry Division will plant replacement trees in the spring of 2014.
The failing trees will be replaced with fast-growing species like linden, honey locust and bur oak which are better suited to Missoula’s arid climate and boulevard growing conditions. Many of the replacement trees are slated for the University District and the Slant Street neighborhoods, where the first boulevard maples were planted in the early 1900’s. The average lifespan of a maple tree in an urban setting is about 60 years, according to City Urban Forester Chris Boza.
“The trees selected for removal have reached the end of their natural lifespans and show significant die-back or damage to more than 50 percent of the tree,” says Boza. “In this weakened condition, boulevard trees represent an unacceptable level of risk to citizens. High-risk tree removal is an important part of urban forest management. When we’re required to remove a high-risk tree, we make every effort to plant an appropriate replacement tree as soon as possible.” City arborists will work with adjacent property owners next spring to ensure the new replacement trees are properly sited and cared for.
The City Council and neighborhood representatives understand the importance maintaining the urban forest and are supportive. “Missoula’s urban forest is one of our city’s wonderful features, and we need to take care of it. Unfortunately a lot of the trees are dying all at the same time. Although it is hard to see, we need to take out the dying trees to make room for the young trees. The urban forest will be healthier and more resilient if there is more age diversity,” says Marilyn Marler, Ward 6 city council representative and botanist at UM.
The tree removal project will begin the week of November 4 and will take approximately six to eight weeks to complete. Residents can expect minor traffic delays and limited restriction of on-street parking to protect motorists, property and people between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., weekdays.
The Urban Forestry Division cares for Missoula’s approximately 32,000 trees in public right-of-ways and parks through a comprehensive planting, pruning and risk management program. “The Urban Forestry Division’s mission is to maintain a healthy urban forest for the maximum benefit of city residents,” says Boza. Residents can learn more about planting and caring for street trees at www.missoulaparks.org. In addition, the Urban Forestry Division has a Cost Share Tree Planting program to help property owners plant new boulevard trees.
Trees For Missoula, a non-profit citizen advocacy group which supports Missoula’s urban forest, welcomes new members at www.treesformissoula.org. Trees For Missoula also accepts tax-deductible donations of any amount to support tree planting throughout the Missoula valley.
The removal project and the replacement trees are funded by the annual city Park District assessment as allocated for pruning, risk management and tree planting. A map of the scheduled removals is available at www.missoulaparks.org. For more information about the project, phone Urban Forester Chris Boza at 552-6270.