Celebrate Earth Day and Arbor Day by planting the right tree in the right place

by | Apr 29, 2022

Spring is more than just a season between March and mid-June. It’s also a verb that means “to rise, move or leap.” These words also describe human activity as they reemerge from the winter months and cold temperatures by partaking in more outdoor activities. Plants, trees and flowers are doing the same with new growth and fresh blooms. Annual worldwide celebrations take place during the spring that bring this full circle when humans observe and celebrate trees and the environment with Earth Day and Arbor Day.

Since 1970, Earth Day has been observed and celebrated April 22 every year in the United States. Earth Day was established to create greater awareness for the environment with goals of bringing policy change. By 1990, Earth Day had spread globally and was being recognized in 141 countries. Now, the approximate number of people who acknowledge Earth Day is 1 billion across 192 countries.

Established in 1872 as a tree-planting holiday, Arbor Day was first observed in Nebraska and was celebrated by the planting of more than a million trees. The national observance of Arbor Day takes place annually the last Friday in April, while North Carolina observes the holiday on the first Friday following March 15. Communities from around the world are involved in a variety of efforts as this awareness, engagement and action are more important than ever.

Planting trees continues to be one of the easiest ways communities can contribute to the sustainable management and preservation of forestland for future generations. Trees offer benefits to everyone as they clean our air, filter our water and are essential to wildlife habitats. The N.C. Forest Service offers a variety of state forestry programs that protect forest resources by supporting landowners and communities with tree planting and forest improvement. Among these are the Nursery and Tree Improvement Program, and cost share programs such as the Forest Development Program. The NCFS Urban and Community Forestry Program oversees the application and award process for Tree City USA, Tree Campus Higher Education and Tree Line USA, which are Arbor Day Foundation (ADF) programs designed to conserve and enhance the benefits and sustainable management of urban forests.

Through its Nursery and Tree Improvement Program (N&TI), the N.C. Forest Service serves as an anchored provider in the tree seedling market, ensuring access to a dependable and affordable supply of the best genetic selections. High value tree species offered by the N.C. Forest Service include loblolly pine, Eastern white pine, Atlantic white cedar and longleaf and shortleaf pine, which are critical for forest restoration projects. Long term efforts by the N&TI program have resulted in dramatic increases in disease resistance and volume growth.

While the N.C. Forest Service offers tree seedlings through its N&TI program, the Forest Development Program (FDP) is North Carolina’s flagship tree-planting program. Through the FDP, landowners may be eligible for partial reimbursement for the costs of site preparation and tree planting along with other necessary work to establish a new forest. Private landowners are eligible to receive up to 100 acres of annual cost share through the FDP. Landowners must have a forest management plan approved by the N.C. Forest Service to qualify for the program. With goals of timber production and creating benefits associated with active forest management, the FDP has been helping North Carolina landowners establish and manage their forests since 1977.

Planting the right tree in the right place and being good stewards for the environment within our own communities are simple but mighty actions with lasting impact.

Nationally recognized ADF programs, such as Tree City USA, Tree Campus Higher Education and Tree Line USA, are administered at the state level by the N.C. Forest Service. Tree City USA provides the structure for community forestry management for cities and towns across the country. The Tree City USA Growth Award is an opportunity to participate in activities recognizing environmental improvement. In 2021, 80 North Carolina communities earned Tree City USA designations. To achieve Tree City USA status, communities must meet four core standards of sound urban forestry management each year. Those core standards include maintaining a tree board or department, having a community tree ordinance, spending at least $2 per capita and of course, celebrating Arbor Day.

Tree Campus Higher Education USA is a program that supports the effective tree management at college and universities. Campuses that achieve Tree Campus Higher Education status did so by meeting core standards that include maintaining a Campus Tree Advisory Committee and a service learning project for students, having a campus tree care plan and a campus tree program with dedicated annual expenditure and observing Arbor Day. Sixteen college and university campuses earned Tree Campus Higher Education designations in 2021.

Staff from the N.C. Forest Service assist with planting a willow tree as part of the Tree Campus USA event

Tree Line USA is a program the promotes sound utility pruning practices by recognizing best practices in public and private utility arboriculture. By demonstrating how trees and utilities can coexist for the benefit of communities and citizens, utilities can achieve Tree Line USA status. Four utilities earned Tree Line USA designations for 2022, based on activities completed in 2021. The N.C. Forest Service oversees the application and award process by providing information to applicants, reviewing and approving applications, and submitting approved applications to the ADF.    

Arbor Day and Earth Day celebrations and observations will be held among communities worldwide over the next several days. Collective new efforts and objectives will continue to be established to improve the quality of the environment that we all share. Increasing sustainable management and conservations of forests, reducing negative impacts from forests threats, increasing the beneficial use of prescribed fire, managing and conserving forests for clean water, and conserving and enhancing the benefits and sustainable management of urban forests are just some of the efforts the N.C. Forest Service is prioritizing over the next decade. These efforts and the strategic blueprint for achieving these objectives have been highlighted in the recently updated North Carolina Forest Action Plan. This work, along with countless expeditions being made by communities, advocacy groups and local, state and federal governments, will improve the quality of life for all North Carolinians.