Arbor day is more than planting a tree, it’s about improving the lives of residents in communities that maintain and grow their urban and community forests.
It all began with J. Sterling Morton, the founder and editor of the Nebraska City News, who was a proponent of forestry and convinced Nebraska law makers to enact the first Arbor Day in 1872. In April of that year the first Arbor Day was held, it is estimated that more than a million trees were planted. Morton would later serve as the secretary of agriculture in the Grover Cleveland administration.
The Arbor Day Foundation was formed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of that first Arbor Day and has transformed the way we think about celebrating trees. In 1976, the Foundation began the Tree City USA program with 42 communities in 15 states. There are more than 3,400 communities across the nation that are recognized through Tree City USA program. In 2018, 87 North Carolina communities earned the Tree City USA designation.
In North Carolina, our County Forest Rangers are the first contact for communities interested in becoming a Tree City USA. They can provide advice and help with planning to meet the four core standards of sound urban forestry management needed, which includes maintaining a tree board or department, having a community tree ordinance, spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry and celebrating Arbor Day.
Tree City USA communities see a multitude of benefits from maintaining their urban forests. It’s estimated that trees benefits cities at a yield three to five times what they cost to grow and maintain by:
- Reducing energy consumption up to 25 percent.
- Reducing stormwater runoff and erosion.
- Boost property values from seven to 20 percent.
- Fostering stronger neighborhood and community ties.
The Tree Campus USA program was launched in 2008 with 29 colleges and universities, today there are more than 250 campuses across the nation. In 2018, 18 North Carolina educational institutions earned the Tree Campus USA designation.
Like the Tree City USA program, to be recognized as a Tree Campus a college or university must meet certain standards. They must form a campus tree advisory committee with representation from the student body, a member of the faculty, someone from the campus facility management, and a person from the community such as the city forester, municipal arborist or a community tree board member. Other interested members are also encouraged to participate.
There must also be a campus tree plan that sets policy and guidance for planting, maintaining and removing trees, as well as an educational component. College campuses seeking Tree Campus USA recognition must also create a budget that could include expenditures such as the cost of trees, labor and equipment, and costs associated with outreach, training, tree inventory, etc. The budget should also consider the value of volunteer labor and staff time. It is suggested the budget works out to be about $3-per full-time student. Like Tree cities, a campus needs to have an Arbor Day observance. They are also required to have a service learning project component that engages students in projects on the campus or in the community.
The Arbor Day Foundation, along with the National Association of State Foresters work together to foster the Tree Line USA program. The objective to recognize the importance of providing safe, reliable electric service while also protecting and enhancing the urban forest by using best management practices in public and private utility arboriculture. The Tree Line program standards include providing quality tree care, annual worker training, tree planting and public education, a tree-based energy conservation program and to participate in an Arbor Day Observation.
Honor your community and demonstrate your commitment to a healthier environment through Arbor Day celebrations and Tree City USA recognition.