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Billings will plant trees with help from $1 million urban forestry grant

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Posted at 11:22 PM, Sep 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-20 11:32:52-04

Thousands of new trees will soon be planted in Billings.

Nearly 400 cities nationwide have received Urban & Community Forestry Grants, with Billings set to receive $1 million of the $1 billion that the U.S. Forest Service is awarding through an Inflation Reduction Act program.

The grant will pay for planting trees on city property.

According to the city, trees provide so many benefits and it's much more than the shade.

"Up by Pioneer Park in that area, great tree canopy up there, very solid tree canopy," said Steve McConnell, Billings city forester. "Almost every city in the country has areas that are largely devoid of tree canopy or have poor quality tree canopy as a result of redlining historic inequities."

McConnell says trees help with a lot of problems.

"People just tend to respond to trees whether they know it or not," McConnell said. "And data show health outcomes are better crime goes down people drive slower people are calmer people are happier."

Crews will be planting new trees starting as soon as next spring.

The areas for the grants include South Billings, the East Billings urban renewal district, and part of an area south of Grand Avenue and north of Central Avenue from Fifth Street West to 24th Street West, disadvantaged neighborhoods currently in need of more trees.

"There's a lot of decisions still to be made about how to who's going to be caring for those trees and where they're at," said Kris Glenn, president of the Yellowstone Valley Citizens Council, a local chapter of the Northern Plains Resource Council.

Glenn says currently, there is no program to get trees planted in those areas along streets.

"In the recent history, there has been no entity that goes in and puts trees in on the boulevards unless a homeowner does," Glenn said. "So if I have a house with a boulevard I could put in a tree if I wanted. And then it's my responsibility to take care of it."

City-owned property that may need trees include parks, the cemetery and city boulevards, the areas between the sidewalks and streets.

McConnell says he's not sure how many trees can be purchased with $1 million. But he's ready to start planting quickly.

"We committed to planting 2,000 In the first year," McConnell said.

"Our main goal is to raise the profile of urban forestry," said Glenn.