Wire report and staff WASHINGTON
Almost 80 feet of Montana is sitting in front of the U. S. Capitol this holiday season. Hav r e fo u r t h - g r a d e r Ch r i s Gabrielsen helped House Speaker Nancy Pelosi light this year's Capitol Christmas Tree in a ceremony Tuesday evening. The tree hails from the Sapphire Mountain Range in the Bitterroot National Forest. Gabrielsen won a statewide drawing for the opportunity to light the tree. He also submitted a handmade ornament, one of 5,000 made by Montanans. The state also provided more than 75 other trees that will be displayed in federal buildings, along with an additional 1,500 Montana ornaments. Montana’s Rep. Denny Rehberg, who met with Gabrielsen before the tree lighting, issued the following statement about the tree: “One hundred and forty-four years ago, when this tree took root, the year was 1864. In the midst of the Civi l War, Pres ident Abraham Lincoln was elected to his second Term as the magnificent cast-iron dome of the United States Capitol Building was completed. Further west, a new territory was carved out of the existing Washington and Dakota Territories. The new territory was named Montana an homage to the rugged landscape from which this tree was chosen. “Today, after a journey of more than 2,000 miles from the Sapphire Mountains in Montana, this tree stands beneath the United States Capitol Dome as a symbol of the holiday season. Like this tree, the United States was born from a tiny seed of an idea that government derives its authority from the people and that people thrive best when planted in free soil.” Before the lighting, Montana’s U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester dedicated the 78-foot Subalpine Fir from the Bitterroot National Forest to the people of the United States. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to have a little piece of Montana on display for the entire country to enjoy,” Baucus said. “As Montanans, we spend a lot of time outdoors whether it’s hiking, fishing or camping with our families and friends. We’re an outdoors people. We’re proud of our outdoor heritage. And this tree will enable the rest of the country to experience a portion of the beauty that our state has to offer the outdoors and the nature that defines us as Montanans.” “This tree helps us share a little bit of Montana with the rest of the country,” Tester said. “It’s a reminder to folks all over the world of the beauty of the Christmas season.” Every year a different state provides the tree. The last time a Montana tree stood in front of the Capitol was 1989.