Today’s Ask Your Government

Dear readers,

The state Christmas tree lighting is Monday at the Capitol. This year’s tree is a 25-foot balsam fir from northwestern Wisconsin, said North Dakota Council on the Arts spokeswoman Amy Schmidt.

My colleagues at the Grand Forks Herald asked me to find out why the state tree isn’t harvested in North Dakota.

I called Bob Harsel with the North Dakota Forest Service in Lisbon. He said there are a few places in North Dakota that grow balsam firs, but they aren’t too adaptable since the trees like more acidic soil than what’s found here.

“In places, you might find a few, but they’re pretty rare as far as a Christmas tree (here),” he said.

The firs are considered “the Cadillac of the Christmas tree,” Harsel said. The official White House Christmas tree is also a balsam fir from Wisconsin, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.

I also called Jody Link in the governor’s office, who did some research. The state contracts with Cashman Nursery in Bismarck, which finds the tree and takes care of it, she said.

The state has used balsam firs for 35 years after experimenting with various types of trees, Link said. They prefer the balsam fir primarily because of its height and strong branches to hold all of the state ornaments, she said. This year, 261 ornaments were donated to the state tree.

The state also needs a tree that can stay up for a longer time and doesn’t have a lot of needles falling off, Link said.

Wisconsin is the closest and best location for getting the trees, and a lot of other states go to Wisconsin for these trees as well, she said.

Dear Teri,

Brad Elliott Schlossman’s blog about UND freshman Colton St. Clair got my mind working overtime. As I understand it, Mr. St. Clair was declared ineligible to play because they had a problem with some of his high school credits.

This is not a letter about Mr. St. Clair. Rather, it is a general question: Are athletes required to meet the same admission criteria as nonathletes?

UND has always been slightly different than other schools in that it prides itself in its student athletes’ academic accomplishments. We routinely have a number of students that are not only world class athletes but accomplished scholars as well.

With all of the animosity regarding the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo, I think it is important to remember that UND is a university that happens to field a number of excellent sports teams.

When these roles become reversed, and we become a sports team disguised as an institution of higher learning, we will no longer be worthy of support.

I graduated from UND in 2005 with a BA from the honors program and will graduate in May of next year with a MS in aviation.

Paul Cline

Thanks for writing! I contacted University of North Dakota spokesman Peter Johnson. He said athletes are required to meet the same admission criteria as nonathletes.

Do you have a question for a North Dakota state government official or agency? Send us your question, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.

E-mail (Subject: Ask your government).

You may also write to Teri Finneman c/o Forum Communications, Press Room, State Capitol, Bismarck, N.D. 58505.

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