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Montana arborists assist VA through "Saluting Branches" program

Saluting Branches
Saluting Branches
Saluting Branches
Posted at 11:24 AM, Sep 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-23 13:24:15-04

HELENA — Montana tree care companies came together Wednesday, volunteering their time to help take care of veterans’ facilities.

About 20 arborists from across the state worked at the Montana VA Fort Harrison Medical Center and the Montana State Veterans’ Cemetery, as part of the nationwide “Saluting Branches” event.

“I think all of us like to come together and try to make a difference in this property and pay it back to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and continue to do so,” said Tom Molitor, an arborist with Big Twig Tree Care in Belgrade.

Companies came in from as far as Missoula and Billings and worked to remove several “hazard trees” that were heavily damaged or decayed.

“When these trees get to the end of their life cycle, it makes sense to remove them before nature does for you,” Molitor said.

They also pruned trees, assessed some that may need to come out later, and ground-up branches and stumps.

“There’s a lot of science behind what we know as good structure,” Molitor said. “It’s just a matter of trying to do preventive maintenance and being proactive, not reactive.”

This is the third time arborists have held a Saluting Branches event at Fort Harrison.

Last year, they weren’t able to do it because of COVID restrictions, but they hope to be back to annual visits from now on.

Amy Claridge, chief of Montana VA’s Center for Development and Civic Engagement, said this program has been a huge help for the 138-acre VA campus.

“It is beautifying our campus; it’s saving us a tremendous amount of work and money in the long run,” she said. “It just goes without saying: we appreciate it beyond words.”

For many arborists, fall is one of the times they have the most work to do, but Molitor said it’s important to them to take this time to help.

“It’s an extremely busy time of year, and again, I’m really grateful to everyone that came out to volunteer here,” he said.

Leaders thanked all the partners who participated in Saluting Branches, including Big Twig Tree Care, Tree Amigos, Mountain Tree Company, Asplundh, Davey Tree, Nitrogreen, the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture; Association of Montana Turf, Ornamental, and Pest Professionals; NorthWestern Energy Company, Montana Nursery and Landscape Association, the City of Helena Park and Recreation Department, Growing Friends of Helena, Townsend American Legion Post #42, and Townsend Tree Board.