Helena's Urban Forest District explained

Urban Forest District
Posted at 5:24 PM, Jul 11, 2023

HELENA — In the 1990s, the city established an Urban Forestry Program.

The current Urban Forest District was created in November of 2010 by a vote of the city commission. The district is responsible for all trees between sidewalks and curbs and in public spaces around the city.

“[It's] taking care of over 10,000 trees, planting new trees, identifying diseases in trees, cleaning up after windstorms or disasters when trees go down and prune and maintain the cities trees,” said Doug Smith, the Director of Parks, Recreation and Open Lands for the City of Helena.

Residents currently pay $39 a year. The assessment is evaluated annually during the city budget process.

One important service the Urban Forestry District provides is cleaning up downed and damaged trees after severe weather events. Depending on the event, it can take them up to three weeks to fully clean up.

“We remove trees from roads to keep emergency services going, we pick hangers out of trees. We pick up down, broken branches from all the trees we manage. It’s an incredibly time-consuming process often after a major wind event,” said Chris Daly, the City of Helena’s Urban Forestry Supervisor.

Daly also says the district can help save residents money if a tree needs to be removed from their property.

“A tree needs to be removed because it becomes excessively hazardous. If you call and you have a tree like that in your front yard, oftentimes that can be several thousand dollars. Having an in-house forestry team, working for the City of Helena, that cost for the residents around those trees is significantly lower because we are able to do that in-house,” Daly said.

State law requires a review of the district every 13 years.

The city is proposing the recreation of the district this year and is currently going through the public notice and public hearing process. The city has a public comment form available on the city’s website for comments.