When it comes to iconic images of Missoula, idyllic tree-lined streets place somewhere in the top five, just behind rivers, Mount Sentinel, the farmers markets and Department of Justice press conferences. Brooks Street under a canopy of old maples in full bloom comes immediately to mind, as does the smattering of colors throughout the University District during fall foliage season. The Garden City takes its urban forest seriously, which is why it was such a bummer to hear that some nincompoop (or gang of nincompoops) tore through at least 12 saplings along Brooks and near Lions Park last weekend. The city says just two of the uprooted trees are salvageable. No funds exist to plant new ones. It's the sort of senseless crime that would send the Lorax into a fury.
But it's not just vandals taking away the trees of our beloved tree-lined streets—the government is too. Perry Backus reported in the Ravalli Republic last week that county and state officials have decided to get rid of tree- and shrub-filled medians along Highway 93 from Lolo to Hamilton and pave over them. The decision stems from the cost of upkeep, as well as the danger of having maintenance crews work on such a busy stretch of road. Never mind that the medians helped maintain some aesthetic appeal when the highway was expanded to four lanes just a few years ago, or that the now-neglected medians will cost about $430,000 to remove, or that public input on the decision to lose the landscaping was dubious at best. They're scheduled to go none the less.
Perhaps losing a few trees isn't that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, except that both of these situations were avoidable. They're also embarrassingly out of step with a part of Montana that prides itself on blurring the line between urban and wild. It seems silly to have to make a stand for something so obviously important to our neck of the woods. But apparently some people need a Lorax-like reminder.