Several mature trees have been cut down on the Hannon Lawn at Montana State University to prepare for construction of the $20 million American Indian Hall.

MSU crews were busy Wednesday chopping up about seven large trees that could be seen on the ground.

Fewer than 10 trees were cut down, said Mike Becker, MSU spokesman. They included spruce, green ash and crab apple trees. Many mature trees remain standing on the site.

“We had to remove some trees from Hannon Lawn that would have been inside the building perimeter,” Becker said.

The university’s tree experts examined each tree to determine its significance to the site and whether it would survive the impact of construction. Some trees and shrubs were saved and transplanted.

“Unfortunately, some did have to be removed,” Becker said. The wood from some trees will be saved for future campus projects and the rest will be turned into mulch for campus landscaping.

The entire construction site has been fenced off – including the lawn and adjacent traffic loop in front of Roberts Hall. That space will be needed for construction equipment. It means the temporary loss of several prime parking spots.

Actual construction of the American Indian Hall probably won’t begin until next spring, Becker said. The architects for the project are ThinkOne Architecture of Bozeman and TSP architects of Rapid City, South Dakota.

MSU sought for more than a decade to raise private donations to build the hall as a home for American Indian students and the Native American studies program.

American Indian enrollment has grown to more than 700 and the university expects it to grow to 1,000 in the next few years.

President Waded Cruzado announced last fall that major donations — $12 million from the Kendeda Fund, $2 million from ASMSU student government, and $1 million each from the Scott and Payne families of Billings and Missoula — had finally raised the $20 million needed to make the hall possible.

MSU hopes to open the hall by August 2021.

Gail Schontzler can be reached at or 406-582-2633. Follow her on Twitter @gailnews.

Gail Schontzler covers schools and Montana State University for the Chronicle.

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