Celebrating Arbor Day
Amy: What is Arbor Day and why is it important?
Marc Measells, Extension Forestry Associate: Arbor Day is a holiday set aside for tree planting activities to celebrate the importance of trees. It is important that people around the world understand all the benefits we receive from trees because many people, especially those from urban areas simply do not understand these benefits. Trees can reduce the erosion of our topsoil by wind and water, cut heating and cooling costs, moderate the temperature, clean the air, produce life-giving oxygen, and provide habitat for wildlife. Trees are a renewable resource giving us paper, wood for our homes, fuel for our fires and countless other wood products. Within cities, they increase property values, enhance the economic vitality of business areas, and beautify our community.
Amy: What is the history Arbor Day?
Marc: On January 4, 1872, at the Nebraska Board of Agriculture meeting, J. Sterling Morton proposed a tree-planting holiday he called “Arbor Day.” They set the date for April 10, 1872 and offered prizes to counties and individuals properly planting the most trees that day. They estimated individuals planted nearly one million trees in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day celebration. Nebraska’s governor officially proclaimed Arbor Day in 1874. During the 1870s other states began to observe Arbor Day and the tradition began in schools nationwide in 1882. It became a legal Nebraska holiday in 1885 with April 22, Morton’s birthday, selected as its permanent observance.
Amy: When do we celebrate Arbor Day now?
Marc: National Arbor Day celebrations occur the last Friday in April. However, many states celebrate Arbor Day earlier to coincide with the best tree planting weather. Mississippi’s Arbor Day celebration occurs the first Friday of February each year.
Amy: I’ve heard about the National Arbor Day Foundation. What can you tell us about the Foundation?
Marc: Founded in 1972, the National Arbor Day Foundation is a nonprofit conservation and education organization dedicated to planting trees, with over one million members, supporters, and valued partners around the world. The Foundation’s mission is to inspire people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees. They accomplish this mission through numerous programs including Tree City USA and Tree Campus USA.
Amy: Are these programs available in Mississippi?
Marc: We have communities and universities across the state participating. In 2018, the Arbor Day foundation recognized 14 cities and 2 universities with these programs. There are several communities celebrating 30+ years of recognition for Tree City USA.
Amy: What are the guidelines for receiving Tree City USA designation?
Marc: To qualify for Tree City USA recognition, a city must meet four standards established by the Arbor Day Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters. They established these standards to ensure that every qualifying community would have a viable tree management program and that no community would be excluded because of size. These standards include formation of a tree board or department, tree care ordinances, community forestry program with an annual budget, and finally an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.
Amy: What are the Tree Campus USA standards?
Marc: For the most part, they are the same as for Tree City USA. Tree Campus USA has five standards including a campus tree advisory committee, campus tree care plan, campus tree program with dedicated annual expenditures, Arbor Day observance, and a service learning project to engage students. Mississippi State has been a Tree Campus USA since 2012.
Amy: How do we find out more information about Arbor Day and these programs?
Marc: All of this information is available on the Arbor Day Foundation website, arborday.org. The Mississippi Forestry Commission would also be a good source of information about Arbor Day celebrations.