Rocky Mountain College awarded arboretum accreditation
BILLINGS, Mont., January 27, 2020 - Rocky Mountain College has been awarded a Level I Arboretum Accreditation by The ArbNet Arboretum.The College has also been recognized as an accredited arboretum in the Morton Register of Arboreta, a database of the world’s arboreta. Rocky Mountain College’s campus comprises 60 acres and includes a variety of native trees and plants. Currently, there are just four arboreta in the state, only two of which are accredited.
“Rocky Mountain College has a beautiful, historic campus and this designation from ArbNet puts us on a national level,” said Keith North, Director of Campus Facilities & Administration. “This came about from working with the Yellowstone Arboretum at ZooMontana. We’re in partnership with them to help foster the beauty of the trees within the Billings community.”
The College worked with staff of ZooMontana’s Yellowstone Arboretum and the arborist for the City of Billings to develop a plan for managing and improving the arboretum. A tree walk is planned that will initially feature more than 25 labelled trees and shrubs.
“We have some significant, historic trees and florae on campus,” said North. “For example, we have two very old American elm trees that we treat each year with injections to maintain their health. Few elm trees survived Dutch elm disease, which decimated the species in North America in the 1920s.”
Currently, there are approximately 75 unique plant and tree species on campus. Planning is underway to plant additional species that will help the College attain Level II status. Achieving Level I accreditation required 25 or more labeled trees or woody plant species as well as meeting standards for further development, planning, and promotion of the arboretum. Level II accreditation requires 100 or more labeled trees or woody plant species.
RMC students have been involved throughout the process, both as part of their classes and through the student-led Environmental Club. Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Botany, Dr. Megan Poulette, has enlisted her students to help identify and label campus trees and shrubs for the tree walk. In addition, students will work on a brochure and website with additional information to support and enhance the tree walk.
“We’ll try to get a label on every unique species on campus,” said Dr. Poulette. “The labels will list the plant family, botanical name, common name, and, where relevant, Crow and Northern Cheyenne names. Our goal is to get the labels up by late spring, hopefully on Arbor or Earth Day.”
“This designation as an arboretum gives us a great opportunity to involve the community in a unique green space within the city of Billings,” said Dr. Poulette. “Through the labels and supporting materials, we hope to educate the community about native and invasive species and their role in the ecology of the region.We’ll invite the K-12 community to bring students to campus as part of their science lessons.The tree walk and arboretum will provide an excellent way to extend this educational opportunity beyond campus.”
ArbNet is an interactive, collaborative, international community of arboreta. ArbNet facilitates the sharing of knowledge, experience, and other resources to help arboreta meet their institutional goals and works to raise professional standards through the ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program. Standards include planning, governance, public access, programming and tree science, planting, and conservation. More information is available at www.arbnet.org.