By Crystal Thompson
Sunday, April 22 marked the 31st anniversary of the first Earth Day, and the Hi-Line is getting involved with the environment by organizing events designed to help keep our corner of the earth clean and beautiful.
According to the Earth Day Information Center, environmental progress since the first Earth Day has significantly improved over the last 30 years due to decreases in emissions of the six major air pollutants. Between 1970 and 1999 carbon monoxide emission levels declined by 29 percent; sulfur dioxide emissions declined 40 percent; volatile organic compounds, major contributors to smog, declined 43 percent and lead emissions sharply declined by 98 percent.
As of the latest complete Coast Guard statistics, the volume of oil spilled in U.S. waters has declined by two-thirds, the lowest amount of oil spilled since the Coast Guard began publishing data in 1973. From aircrafts like the Boeing 777 to domestic vehicles, transportation has become safer to the environment's air quality in recent years. Wetland and forest losses are continually slowing as well.
One of the best ways to continue this trend is to participate in local clean-up campaigns; as well as remembering to practice the three R's : reduce, reuse and recycle. Members of the Hi-Line communities have joined in this effort by planting trees, picking up trash, reusing and recycling at local centers like Havre Day Activity or Pacific Steel and Recycling.
The annual Havre Pride day is one of the community's most recognized clean-up efforts, and has been for nearly nine years. This spring's event is scheduled to take place on Saturday, April 28. The idea behind Havre Pride day is to get the community involved in cleaning up the streets of Havre. The program (formerly known as Adopt Havre) began with a group of local businesses who saw the need to clean up the downtown and make it more inviting; from there it grew into a community-wide effort that has continued to grow throughout the years.
Last year's Havre Pride day boasted 100-150 participants, according to committee chairperson Kim Cripps. Members of the community participate in the event by picking up trash bags, which are donated by the city and the highway department, from designated sites and collecting litter from the streets of Havre. Volunteers man the dumpsites from 8:30 a.m. until noon, filling up the receptacles and keeping tabs on the amount of trash collected.
There are five dumpsites throughout the city, which allow for people from all neighborhoods to participate. Havre Pride committee volunteers are available throughout the day as well to pick up any items of trash that people may have lying around, the crews will pick up these items from alleyways and deliver them to the dumpsites. Local businesses and clubs, families and friends form cleaning crews and scour the town for litter.
Since it began, Havre Pride has raised enough money to purchase fourteen trash receptacles for the city of Havre. The committee relies on donations from local merchants to provide prizes for participants. Prizes are awarded for most trash collected by a single person, by a group and by a family. The largest piece of trash and the most unusual piece of trash also win prizes. Last year's grand prize was a stay at the TownHouse Inns of Havre, with a complimentary dinner. Anyone can participate in the clean-up efforts, said Cripps, noting that a lot of children have taken part in the cleanup day in recent years.
Hi-Line youngsters have long taken an active role in keeping up the Hi-Line. Not only do they participate in the Havre Pride cleanup day, they also participate in various programs through their communities and schools.
Recently, elementary students from Havre and Hi-Line schools participated in the Hometown Tree program. A number of two-year-old scotch pine seedlings were donated to area schools by the Havre Parks and Recreation Department, Gary and Leo's IGA, Coca-Cola, Taco Johns and numerous other area businesses. The Hometown Tree program is one of many area efforts to keep the Hi-Line beautiful, and is one of the reasons Havre has been named a Tree City USA for the eleventh year in a row.
Havre Public Schools and MSU-Northern also participated in campus cleanups this week in honor of Earth Day. Members of a Havre High biology class recently used an old satellite dish, pipe and other material to recycle into a fountain behind the cafeteria at the high school. Brett Hamilton, biology teacher at Havre High headed up the project. Hamilton said that the fountain is ecologically dual-purposed, as it is made almost exclusively of recycled material and, once completed, will provide a mini-ecosystem for students to study.
Several local schools, businesses and families are involved in area clean-up through the Adopt-A-Highway program as well. Nearly everyone has seen the signs along the side of many country roads, interstates and highways throughout the Hi-Line that read "Adopt-A-Highway", as well as the name of the group, family or organization that has adopted that stretch of road.
The true name of the program is the Adopt-A-Highway Maintenance Corporation. It was developed in 1985, and has grown into a nationwide campaign with over 1.1 million volunteers adopting over 158,000 miles of US roadways. Because volunteers are now cleaning litter from roadways, Department of Transportation employees are now available to take care of other highway needs including road repair and clearing. Nearly every stretch of the Hi-Line's roadways are kept litter-free by participants of the Adopt-A-Highway program. Not only can volunteers pick up litter, they are also permitted to mow and plant approved vegetation along the adopted roadways.
Whether local citizens are picking up trash, recycling and reusing, planting trees or simply purchasing environmentally-friendly products, it seems that the Hi-Line prides itself on maintaining a clean and safe place to live now and in the future.