Pre-greening the press 

He must have thought the greens would try to get to the press first.

There’s really no other reason for Tim Krusemark to have called a reporter out of the blue two Thursdays ago, and then picked him up the following Friday, to drive across the Higgins bridge and show him the spot where four Blue spruce were soon to be cut down. Krusemark works for NorthWestern Energy, and he just wanted to make sure the reporter understood the reasoning behind the imminent removal of the several Blue spruce lined up like a fence or a windbreak between the Millennium Building off Higgins and the NorthWestern power substation that sits just between the newish eight-story tower and the banks of the Clark Fork at the edge of downtown.

Not that anyone had asked or anything.

It turns out that a situation has been brewing there for over a year, set in motion by the fact that construction of the Millennium involved trenching a fat Mountain Water line between the tree line and the border of the Millennium’s parking garage pavement, which tore up good chunks of the spruce’s root balls.

Which is every bit as bad for the spruce as it sounds. The trees have been declining in health ever since, and NorthWestern, having recently secured the power station with a strong and attractive fence, wants them out of there before they blow down some windy day and knock the lights out at St. Pat’s, which is on its grid.

The city forester agrees, not that he could have stopped it.

Even the guy with an office in the Millennium who had hoped for an alternate solution to save his viewshed eventually agreed that there wasn’t anything else to be done. “I think it’s sad to see them go,” he said, after workers had removed the first two trees on Monday. But he wasn’t complaining.

And neither was anyone else, which made a reporter wonder why Mr. Krusemark had called him, eager to present NorthWestern’s side of a story no one had suggested anyone tell. Almost always, in the newspaper business, one has an allegation in hand before requesting a response, and cutters of trees hardly ever issue special invitations to the press to survey and judge in advance the work to be done.

This was, perhaps, a new day in the annals of public relations.

As they drove away, Mr. Krusemark said something almost apologetic about his company’s well-known travails, something about how still, a lot of the people that work there have been at it for 20, 30 years, doing their jobs. Mr. Krusemark sounded like he hoped that counted for something, and though the reporter felt a bit bad for his seemingly humbled circumstance, his feeling compelled to explain in advance any possible thing that someone might at some time possibly complain about, he also had to admit that it felt good, in a time of such leaderly malfeasance and corporate squirrel-ishness, to have a company man in good faith let the citizenry in on what the company is doing, and why.

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