Letters to the editor of 21

Plant a tree on Earth Day

Consider planting a tree for Earth Day. Trees are important to our personal health and well-being, and to the health of our planet. Simply put, trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the air. Oxygen – the element necessary for life. Trees support not only our physical health but also our mental health. Who doesn’t feel emotionally better when walking among trees and rejuvenating, whether we’re sitting under a tree in our yard or hiking a trail in the Bob Marshall Wilderness?

You may have noticed that our trees are disappearing bit by bit. Or maybe you haven’t noticed, because when they’re slowly disappearing, project after project, we tend not to notice. Just in and near Columbia Falls, at least 100 trees along Highway 206 were removed as the Department of Transportation and Riverfront Engineering began this expansion project. No one but the neighbors will notice the disappearance of at least 300 trees that will need to be removed on the MDOT property along Highway 206 to make way for the massive gravel pit required for the project.

A year ago, hundreds of trees were taken out in preparation for The Benches subdivision east of the Flathead River. My estimate is that between these two projects we lost over 1,000 trees in my neighborhood, including the birds, small animals, insects and other wildlife that went with them.

On the west side of Columbia Falls are two recently approved new subdivisions in wooded areas. In downtown Columbia Falls, shady trees were removed to make room for development. This differs from managed forests and logging. If trees are removed and the earth is covered with buildings and asphalt, a tree will never grow there again.

It is too late to do anything about the loss of these trees. The best we can do is plant our own trees. If you live in the city, plant a tree after checking with the city for ordinances and with UDIG. If you own land outside of the city, plant trees in that unused space.

And plant native trees. The Montana Native Plant Society website has a publication with recommended species for the Flathead Valley. The Center for Native Plants on US 93 carries a large selection. For large numbers visit MT DNRC Conservation Seedling Nursery. There my family bought the 432 seedlings we planted a year ago.

Help to reforest our landscape. Our health and the health of our planet depend on us.

– Shirley Folkwein, Columbia Falls

Flathead heat center

We, the Board of Directors of the Flathead Warming Center, are writing in response to a recent letter to the Editor regarding the Warming Center’s seasonal closure. We want the community to know that closing during the summer is part of a conscious and focused philosophy.

Our mission is to save lives by providing places to stay during our coldest months, by providing accessible housing access, and by providing our guests with links to community resources to help them find permanent housing. Providing shelter year-round can be empowering and counterproductive. We all must be uncomfortable taking necessary steps toward making changes in our lives. We treat our guests with dignity, love and honesty. However, some do not feel the urgency to move forward.

At the shelter, we have a 100-night countdown to season closure to encourage a sense of urgency, and with our countdown, we’re working with our guests to help overcome homelessness.

Our shelter season ends at the end of April, but our services don’t end then. In our effort to link community support and services to each of our guests, we will be open during the summer months (Monday, Wednesday and Friday 10:30am to 2:00pm) offering individuals and families access to showers and laundry services and to enable us to continue our relationship with many who are struggling in our community. Our open summer hours will allow us to continue to empower those we serve with tools and resources to go beyond homelessness.

We thank the community for their strong support of the Flathead Warming Center and the other departments that provide assistance and shelter to the homeless in our community.

– Luke Heffernan, Tonya Horn, Jane Emmert, Shirley Willis, Jerie Betschart, Darrin Andrews, Bethany Johnson, Roger Nasset, Jeffrey Scogin, Steve Snipstead

About Stephanie McGehee

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