John Royster, Landscape Architect – Omaha, Nebraska

Enersen1bJohn Royster has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to serving his community as a tree planter, promoter and protector. One of John’s childhood memories is of his interest in the conservation projects on his grandfather’s farms. John built on this interest by helping care for trees as a Cub Scout. Later, as a college student, he served as a park ranger engaged in planting projects. John eventually earned a Master of Landscape Architecture degree at Kansas State University.

During his 30 year career as a landscape architect, John Royster has been committed to conservation.  By focusing on trees, one site at a time, John has made a profound impact on the Omaha region and beyond.  He’s made public engagement a priority, providing a platform to educate people about the importance of their actions to environmental quality.

In 1989, John worked with the Arbor Day Foundation to develop the site plan for the development of Arbor Day Farm, which served as the roadmap for this National Historic Landmark.

John has worked with several nonprofits, such as Girls Incorporated of Omaha, the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, Omaha by Design, and the Arbor Day Foundation, among others. John has never been afraid of getting his hands dirty. If a planting project needs to be done and John is around, you’ll likely find him in the thick of it.

Omaha-DowntownFor nearly a decade, John worked with Omaha by Design — an urban design and environmental nonprofit dedicated to enhancing Omaha’s economic development potential by improving the quality of its physical environment as an avenue to a better quality-of-life. John served as a voice for trees and conservation as a way to attract people to — and keep people in – Omaha, a Tree City USA community.

Connie Spellman, Director, Omaha by Design, said, “John’s enduring respect for the natural environment is evident in every project he touches. His passion for sustainable design helped us develop the tenets to which we remain committed a decade later.”

For his lifelong commitment to tree planting and conservation leadership in greater Omaha, John Royster is the recipient of the 2015 Lawrence Enersen Award. This year’s Arbor Day Award ceremony will be held at Lied Lodge & Conference Center, located at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, Nebraska, on Saturday, April 25.

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Howard Neukrug, Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, Philadelphia Water

howard_neukrugPhiladelphia, a Tree City USA community for nearly four decades, is where Howard Neukrug presides at Philadelphia Water. Howard Neukrug is a leader in recognizing the importance of trees to a healthy watershed and to clean drinking water in our cities. Howard serves as the commissioner and chief executive officer of Philadelphia Water — where he’s long enjoyed collaboration with an incredibly strong team — on the U.S. EPA National Drinking Water Advisory Council, and as Vice Chairman of the U.S. Water Alliance.

In 2002, as watershed program director for Philadelphia Water, Howard, with partnership support and contributions from the U.S. Forest Service, completed an urban ecosystem analysis for the Philadelphia metropolitan area which illustrated that the loss of tree canopy cover has a detrimental impact on water quality.

His initiative led to the funding and maintenance of natural areas, and with the leadership of then Mayor and later Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, TreeVitalize was established in 2004, through which tens of thousands of trees were strategically planted.

Venice Island Pump house_ Paul FugazzottoNeukrug, with the vital support of city agencies, and public and private partners, helped to create Green City, Clean Waters (GCCW), a comprehensive, community enhancing green stormwater management plan that boosts the sustainability and greening goals of Philadelphia’s overarching Greenworks Plan. GCCW’s Green Streets component uses trees to supplement the work of traditional storm drains to manage street runoff, resulting in newly tree lined streets. GCCW trees are multi-taskers as they manage stormwater, enhance air quality, improve property values and beautify Philadelphia neighborhoods

“GCCW is the single largest green stormwater infrastructure program in the nation,” Neukrug noted. “But the realization of the program – and its daily implementation – is achieved through the passion and dedication of Philadelphia Water’s own Office of Watersheds, and the strong partnership and leadership provided by our sister agencies – Philadelphia’s Parks & Recreation and Office of Sustainability.  It is a pleasure and honor to have such steadfast support.”

Phil Rodbell, Urban Forestry Program Specialist at the U.S. Forest Service, said, “Howard’s work on the ground and in the halls of government on behalf of trees, watersheds, and green infrastructure has shined a new light on Philadelphia as a livable and lovable city, once again.”

Porous Asphalt Parking Lot with Green Gutter and Vegetated Basin at Salvation Army_Louis_Cook_for_PWDAs Howard says, “Trees are not going to solve our problem, but they are part of our toolbox. People tend to like trees more than sewers, if you give them a choice.”

For leading the way in planting and protecting the urban and community forest and ensuring clean, safe drinking water, Howard Neukrug is the recipient of the 2015 Excellence in Urban Forestry Leadership Award. This year’s Arbor Day Award ceremony will be held at Lied Lodge & Conference Center, located at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, Nebraska, on Saturday, April 25.

Do you have an Arbor Day Foundation story that you’d like to share?  Please tell us all about it in the comments section below.  We’d love to hear it!

Jerry Brown, Governor, State of California

Sacramento, a Tree City USA community, is known as the “Tree Capital of the World.” It’s also where Governor Jerry Brown presides as the leader of California state government.

DT Sacramento CAGovernor Brown has played a key role in establishing community forestry in California.  During his first term, The Urban Forestry Act of 1978 created an urban forestry program through state law, allowing California’s Depart of Forestry and Fire Protection – also known as Cal Fire –  to “implement a program in urban forestry to encourage better tree management and planting in urban areas.”

Since again becoming Governor in 2011, Brown has continued his legacy leading to historic funding levels for California’s Urban and Community Forestry Program.

In 2012, Assembly Bill 1492 provided the first and only sustainable revenue source in support of urban forestry — up to 30 million dollars annually.

In 2013, Brown put his stamp on a Three-Year Investment Plan that highlights urban forestry as an investment area for greenhouse gas reductions, improved public health, and environmental justice.

Gov Jerry Brown

California Governor Jerry Brown with his father, Edmund “Pat” Brown, Governor of California from 1959 to 1967, at Echo Summit/Desolation Wilderness

Always steadfast to his commitment to support urban forestry, Brown signed a state budget on June 20, 2014 containing 17.8 million dollars for Cal Fire’s Urban and Community Forestry Program – the largest one-year, single-state allocation for urban forestry in the entire history of the United States.

Governor Brown continues to highlight the value of community forests, noting, “Trees provide shelter for us and birds and wildlife. They give us shade and conserve our soil. We harvest fruit from trees and at the same time enjoy their beauty. We plant trees not only for the benefit of this generation but as our gift to posterity.”

As Jerry Brown enters his fourth and final term as Governor of California, the future of urban forestry is bright.  Through Governor Brown’s actions, California has a successful Urban and Community Forestry Program, a tax to support it, and a revenue source to support greenhouse gas reduction projects and benefit disadvantaged communities.  Governor Jerry Brown is indeed a true Champion of Trees.

California Governor Jerry Brown is the recipient of the 2015 Champion of Trees Public Service Award. This year’s Arbor Day Award ceremony will be held at Lied Lodge & Conference Center, located at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, Nebraska, on Saturday, April 25.

Do you have an Arbor Day Foundation story that you’d like to share?  Please tell us all about it in the comments section below.  We’d love to hear it!

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Emi Lutz, Bellevue, Washington

Emi LutzHigh School senior Emi Lutz of Bellevue, Washington — a Tree City USA community — compiled a guide to the plants of Lewis Creek Park with great enthusiasm. The guide was Emi’s senior project and part of Bellevue’s Well Kept Program, offered by the city’s Parks and Community Services DepartmentNatural Resources Division.

The 85-page, full-color guide highlights plants ranging from the Douglasfir to the slough sedge. More importantly, the experience stimulated Emi’s conservation ethic and led her to the University of Washington where she is studying for a career as a biologist.

Emi Lutz Bk“Through working in the Well Kept Program and leading nature walks with residents, I realized that I enjoyed sharing my interest and knowledge of the outdoors and trees with others,” said Emi.

The Well Kept Program offers summer park employment that teaches life skills, provides environmental education, and instills young people with self-esteem and good work habits. This opportunity and support from the Bellevue’s Parks and Community Services Department provided Emi with the training and experience that helped forge her current academic and eventual career path.

Emi Lutz Group“It was fun to teach both kids and adults and watch them learn and start caring for the environment,” she adds.

Do you have an Arbor Day Foundation story that you’d like to share?  Please tell us all about it in the comments section below.  We’d love to hear it!

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RonDell Pooler, Washington, District of Columbia

Rondell PoolerRonDell Pooler, a resident of the Tree City USA recognized community of Washington, D.C., leveraged a valuable training opportunity when he registered with DC Green Corps, a green jobs program that provides career training and guidance for underemployed Washington residents. DC Green Corps training focuses on new tree planting and maintenance, park management, and volunteer supervision.

As part of the program, RonDell participated in a 12-week training course supported by the District of Columbia Department of Transportation’s Urban Forest Administration and the U.S. Forest Service.

DC CorpsNow a proud graduate of DC Green Corps, RonDell works for a nonprofit organization leading volunteer projects, monitoring trees and park conditions, and supervising trainees.

“Forestry programs have had a great impact, not only by giving me a job but real skills,” said RonDell. “It has also helped me become more conscious of the community and my neighborhood.”

The generous support from the D.C. Urban Forest Administration and the U.S. Forest Service helped to make this successful program possible, and provided the valuable opportunity to encourage local community forestry leaders like RonDell Pooler to engage in the active stewardship of Washington’s trees now and into the future.

Do you have an Arbor Day Foundation story that you’d like to share?  Please tell us all about it in the comments section below.  We’d love to hear it!

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Linda Jark, Chapman, Kansas, Tree Board Chair

On the night of June 11, 2008, a deadly tornado struck Chapman, Kansas, leaving behind a trail of devastation. Much of the tree canopy in the heart of this farming community was destroyed.

KS plantingTo exacerbate the difficult situation, Chapman had no organized community forestry program. That’s when the Kansas Forest Service got involved. A community forester at Kansas State University took initiative, promptly contacted Chapman city officials, and generously offered technical assistance to help the community address the storm’s aftermath.

During the next several years, the Kansas Forest Service helped start a tree board and guided an inventory of the community’s trees. Information from the inventory helped leverage Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance to remove irreparably damaged and destroyed trees and to guide a new tree planting strategy.

Linda JarkLinda Jark was eventually appointed chair of the new tree board. She is quick to praise the assistance that Chapman received after the tornado. For her, this made all the difference.

“Thanks to the Kansas Forest Service, we got the right information and recommendations,” said Linda. Chapman’s community forestry program is now thriving and continues to grow.  In addition, Chapman is now a proud Tree City USA recognized community.

“Now it’s starting to show,” said Linda. “We have growth. The community forestry program is in the public eye.”

Do you have an Arbor Day Foundation story that you’d like to share?  Please tell us all about it in the comments section below.  We’d love to hear it!

Jo An Street, Portland, Maine, Parent

Jo AnJo An Street is the mother of an elementary student at Reiche School near downtown Portland, Maine, a recognized Tree City USA community for nearly four decades, so she understands the importance of exposing city-raised children to trees and green space. She was pleased when a collaborative effort was initiated between Portland’s Forestry Department, local businesses and educational groups to create apple orchards on school grounds.

“This is the only green space many of these children may have access to,” says Jo An. With support from the Maine Forest Service‘s ‘Project Canopy,’ four apple orchards were established at Portland schools during the first three years, and the project continues to grow. Jo An kids

The trees in the school orchard are connecting children with nature. The orchards are planted and cared for by students and staff during the school year and by community and parent groups during the summer. In addition to providing outdoor play space, the orchards also serve an educational purpose.

“This has become a community effort and trees are an important way to bring science education to these kids,” Jo An adds. She has already noticed the difference the trees have made to her own children.

Joan Tree

Were it not for grant dollars, professional advice and volunteer assistance from state and local forestry officials, children in Portland would not have these educational and invigorating orchards in which to learn and play.

Do you have an Arbor Day Foundation story that you’d like to share?  Please tell us all about it in the comments section below.  We’d love to hear it!

Allison Fisher, Neptune Township, New Jersey, and Bill Comery, Paramus, New Jersey, Beneficiaries of the New Jersey Community Tree Recovery Campaign

The Arbor Day Foundation’s Community Tree Recovery campaigns have become an important resource to people affected by natural disasters. Since 2006, the Arbor Day Foundation has given nearly 1.6 million trees to people in communities recovering from natural disasters.

The size, scope and scale of Superstorm Sandy that pounded the eastern seaboard in October, 2012 was unprecedented.

Hurricane-force winds, storm-surge flooding, and salt water damage had a lethal effect on trees in many states, especially the “Garden State” of New Jersey, which lost millions of trees.

Allison Fisher

Credit: NJTV

The people of New Jersey love their trees. Allison Fisher from Neptune Township remarked, “You know you’re so used to seeing something and then it’s not there. It’s like a missing puzzle piece.”

To accelerate the urgent replanting needed, and to begin bringing hope and healing to the people and communities in need, the Arbor Day Foundation and New Jersey Division of State Forestry Services launched the New Jersey Community Tree Recovery Campaign. This year, some 100,000 trees were given to residents at 97 events in 18 counties.

Nj Tree Recovery 6Bill Comery, long-time Paramus resident and that city’s former director of parks and forestry, has seen first-hand the hope and healing brought forth by the New Jersey Community Tree Recovery Campaign.  Said Comery, “More and more communities are engaged. We are on the road to recovering our precious tree canopy, one tree at a time.”  Comery personally witnessed the devastation that hit close to home – literally. “I woke up the morning after the storm and was very disheartened to see my prized scarlet oak damaged beyond repair,” he said. Comery’s scarlet oak was documented as the largest in the entire state of New Jersey. Comery continued, “The tree had provided canopy coverage to my entire home. After its loss, I noticed that I had to run the air conditioner a lot more, and completely alter my landscaping from full shade to full sun.”

Comery is replanting, having planted several trees including some of his favorite species of oak and beech. He concluded, “We need trees for all of the benefits that they provide.  It’s very much a quality of life issue. Trees greatly improve the quality of life in a community. And now, more than ever, with the help of the Arbor Day Foundation and its Community Tree Recovery Campaign, we in New Jersey are taking care to plant the right tree in the right place and restoring our vibrant tree canopy.”

2014-03-29 10.08.45To foster diversity, 29 species were distributed as part of the New Jersey Community Tree Recovery Campaign: Oaks and pines. Spruces and firs. Basswood, beach plum, and bay berry. Black gum and black walnut. Bald cypress and sycamore. The list is long, the trees are beautiful, and their impact will last for generations. The plantings, which will continue, are a heroic response to a natural catastrophe—companies, municipalities, and volunteers taking action to bring green abundance back to their communities.

In the future, “super-storms” such as Sandy are likely to be more frequent as climate change continues unabated. It has been said regarding climate change that we need to avoid the unmanageable and manage the unavoidable. The members and supporters of the Arbor Day Foundation share a simple, noble, and invaluable part of the solution: planting trees.

Do you have an Arbor Day Foundation story that you’d like to share?  Please tell us all about it in the comments section below.  We’d love to hear it!

James Settle, Roanoke, Virginia, Neighborhood Leader and Former Parks Advisory Board Member

James Settle“This stretch of road was a racetrack,” said Roanoke, Virginia, resident James Settle, recalling how speeding cars used to pour across a nearby bridge, down his street and past his family’s home.

Walking in James’ neighborhood was truly a dangerous proposition – until the City of Roanoke, a long-time Tree City USA recognized community, planted 26 ornamental and shade trees at the foot of the bridge. The trees grew into an effective entryway to the neighborhood and a buffer between busy traffic and single-family homes. The constancy of speeding cars subsided.

The new trees slowed traffic and made the neighborhood safer. In fact, James says he has never felt safer, and that the 26 trees made all the difference.

“If we could do only one thing as a neighborhood, we’d plant trees,” he said.

roanoke james sWhile other local neighborhoods hoped to realize the same safety benefits, a challenging budget situation reduced the overall number of trees that the city would be able to plant. Undeterred, James inspired a local volunteer group of tree stewards with the goal of giving every resident the same sense of comfort he now experiences.

Do you have an Arbor Day Foundation story that you’d like to share?  Please tell us all about it in the comments section below.  We’d love to hear it!

Megan Ehlers, Ehlers Animal Care, Trees for Pets

Professional pet sitters, veterinarians, other animal care professionals, and all who love animal companions have a unique opportunity to honor, celebrate and remember the pets for which they care through the Arbor Day Foundation’s unique Trees for Pets program.

Launched in the winter of 2010, Trees for Pets allows animal care professionals to show just how special their clients’ pets are to them while at the same time making a difference in the world. Each Trees for Pets certificate honors a special companion by planting a tree in their honor or memory in our nation’s forests to help replace grand trees that are lost each year to fire or disease.

Megan Ehlers“Trees for Pets means so much to our clients.  We’ve received a very positive response from our clients because of our participation in Trees for Pets,” said Megan Ehlers, owner and veterinarian at Ehlers Animal Care in Lincoln, Nebraska. “We very much want to honor the passing of a loved companion. It helps create a sense of peace in a time of need. Our clients are moved by the simple act of planting a tree to honor the bond they shared with their pet, and they are touched that the acknowledgement of the love of their pet is making a lasting difference for generations to come through the planting of trees. One client’s thank you card shared that the tree planted was placed in a forest that his father used to reminisce about camping in as a child.  Moments such as these are profound for us, but most importantly to the healing process of our clients.”

Ehlers Animal Care has helped the Arbor Day Foundation plant 460 trees during the past four years through their participation in the Trees for Pets program.

Ttrees for pethey’re more than our pets. They’re our friends. They carve out a special place in our hearts and in our lives. What better way to honor them than with the gift of trees?

A meaningful and convenient way to honor the companions for which you care, Trees for Pets is easy to use. Online registration is available at http://www.arborday.org/animalpro/.

“Animals are such agreeable friends—they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.”

—George Eliot

Do you have an Arbor Day Foundation story that you’d like to share?  Please tell us all about it in the comments section below.  We’d love to hear it!