Project Blue River Rescue: Improving Kansas City’s Waterways

Every year for the past 20 years, hundreds of volunteers and city workers in metropolitan Kansas City come together in an effort known as Project Blue River Rescue. Their goal: to clean up piles of trash and illegal dumping out of the Blue River which flows through their city.

Blue River Rescue 2013

Kansas City-area boy scouts take to the Blue River to haul out debris as part of the Project Blue River Rescue 2013. Photo: PBRR Facebook.

Partnering with the Kansas City Public Works, the Missouri Department of Conservation and several local businesses and organizations, Project Blue River Rescue has grown to be Missouri’s largest, one-day conservation cleanup.

“Each year, volunteers have cleaned up thousands of pounds of trash, tires, appliances and even cars,” says Wendy Sangster, Urban Forester with the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Blue River Rescue 2013

Volunteers remove several bags of trash and nuisance honeysuckle from the banks of the Blue River in metro Kansas City, as part of the Project Blue River Rescue 2013. Photo: PBRR Facebook.

More recently, Project Blue River Rescue has also focused on habitat restoration along the river. In April 2013, a group of 20 volunteers organized by the Heartland Tree Alliance, a branch of Bridging the Gap, planted 500 tree seedlings along the Blue River near a baseball complex in southern Kansas City. The seedlings included native species — burr oak, sycamore, pecan and shellbark hickory — all which would have normally grown along the Blue River. Volunteers also worked to remove invasive honeysuckle plants along the waterway to ensure the growth of these new seedlings.

Sangster firmly believes in the longevity of this project and the positive impact it has on the local community. By getting community members involved in the planting, she feels it instills a connection to nature and provides a foundation for advancing environmental stewardship in the greater Kansas City area.

“If a volunteer can do the physical, hard work of planting a tree,” Sangster says, “they are more likely to become ambassadors and tree stewards in their own communities.”
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Mary Sweeney is a program manager at the Arbor Day Foundation.

 

Next stage of green roof sprouts over downtown Lincoln

Green Roof Project - Lincoln, NELast week, Arbor Day Foundation employees took to their office rooftop with plants and vines in hand, ready to bring the next stage of their green roof project to fruition.

The first installment of the green roof took shape nearly three years ago at 12th and P Streets in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, when workers installed 7,369 square feet of green roof and planted it in sedum and native grasses. Read more…

Summer storms keep disaster recovery top of mind

Strong storms, tornadoes, and wildfires have rocked communities all across the U.S. this spring and summer, leaving paths of destruction in their wake.

In the past few weeks alone, thousands of acres have burned in Southern California and New Mexico. Oklahoma and Texas each have seen rampant devastation by multiple tornadoes – some bringing the strongest winds ever recorded. And with the 2013 tropical storm season now officially underway, climatologists are predicting more and stronger storms for the coasts this summer. Read more…

Happy Arbor Day

In the mid 1880s, J. Sterling Morton arrived at what was then the Nebraska territories. He quickly became active in civic affairs, and championed a holiday for planting trees – which the prairie did not have a lot of at the time.

Loblolly cones  seedlings1 Ratcliff (2)Morton was on to something. Arbor Day is celebrated today in all 50 states and around the world.

Tomorrow, the Foundation will honor 14 outstanding tree plantings and conservationists at the annual Arbor Day Awards.

Our highest honoree, Kemba Shakur, is a nationally-known champion for urban forests who first started planting in West Oakland – after drawing a connection between many of her neighborhood’s challenges and the absence of green space.

Learn about this year’s Arbor Day Award winners here.

Americans interact with the Arbor Day Foundation in many ways throughout the year, but perhaps we’re known best for the Tree City USA program. Now in its 37th year, Tree City USA recognizes cities and towns for sustained investment in urban forestry. The U.S. Forest Service and National Association of State Foresters are key partners in this work.

See our complete list of current Tree City USAs here.

manhattantreesWe’re also excited by the growth of Tree Campus USA, which brings similar resources and recognition to effective forest management on colleges and universities. Check out the full list of 2012 Tree Campus USAs here.

Trees do so much for us without our even noticing sometimes. They beautify neighborhoods, remove harmful pollutants from the air and provide critical habitat for wildlife. Trees save energy, protect water resources and make our lives healthier. Our state and national forests are a treasure – but they need our continued support.

Happy Arbor Day. And don’t forget to visit us again soon to find out how you can plant trees and make our planet a better place throughout the year.

Arbor Day Award winners exemplify tree-planting spirit throughout the year

UPDATE: We’re pleased to announce the identifies of our 2013 Arbor Day Award winners. Kemba Shakur, executive director of the Oakland, California, based Urban ReLeaf, will receive the J. Sterling Morton Award, the highest honor given by the Foundation. Shakur will join 13 other individuals, organizations and companies this Saturday in Nebraska City to receive her award. The remaining winners are:

  • UPS (Atlanta, Georgia)
  • Eden Reforestation Projects (Glendora, CA)
  • City of Punta Gorda, Florida
  • Dr. Waddell Barnes (Macon, Georgia)
  • Alliance for Community Trees (College Park, MD)
  • Donna Love (Niceville, Florida)
  • Lakeshore Learning Materials (Carson, CA)
  • Plant With Purpose (San Diego, CA)
  • Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (Minneapolis, MN)
  • Friends of Grand Rapids Parks (Grand Rapids, MI)
  • Florida Forest Service (Tallahassee, FL)
  • Dr. Burnell Fischer (Bloomington, IN)
  • Lost Pines Forest Recovery Campaign (College Station, TX)

Learn more about the winners here.

ORIGINAL POST: Four years ago, the nation was in the early throes of a deep recession, yet the winners of that year’s Arbor Day awards persevered through tough economic times to leave legacies of stewardship, as Americans have done throughout our history.

nebraskaThat same spirit is evident in this year’s winners, as 14 individuals, organizations and companies gather in Nebraska City this Saturday to be recognized for their extraordinary advocacy in tree planting and conservation.

The winners, who will be officially announced tomorrow, include an inspiring non-profit executive director and mentor, a statewide forestry agency that plants millions of new trees every year and an educational materials company that has inspired staff and customers to make outdoor learning spaces for children a priority.

Other winners are using technology to help resident create real-time tree maps, reversing deforestation and improving lives through clean stoves and replanting in areas recovering from natural disasters.

Observant visitors to Lied Lodge & Conference Center at Arbor Day Farm, the site of this weekend’s ceremony, will note the flags in the lobby signifying the home states of the 2013 winners — Florida, Maryland, California, Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan, Georgia and Texas.

One of our exceptional winners from 2012, the Arbor Day Foundation’s 40th year, was Dr. James Middleton, a Kentucky physician whose recognition for planting 750,000 trees on his own property was noted by CNN. The U.S. Forest Service received the highest honors last year for a legacy of partnership in community forestry, replanting in national forests and support for the conservation mission of Lied Lodge.

We were also delighted to welcome Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, whose home state has been a pioneer in urban forestry and woodland restoration.

“We not only have the intellect and imagination to harness nature,” O’Malley told last year’s audience. “We also have the intellect and compassion to preserve it.” (You can view our video we put together about the Governor below).

We look forward to hosting the 2013 winners this weekend — and announcing their accomplishments in the coming days.

Retiring U.S. Senator Mike Johanns an Arbor Day ally

Nebraska United States Senator Mike Johanns, who announced his retirement yesterday after more than three decades in public service, has been an ally of the Foundation and our programs in a number of areas.

nebraskaWith his colleague then-Senator Ben Nelson, Johanns introduced a resolution last year to commemorate the 140th anniversary of Arbor Day. The resolution noted the tree-planting holiday’s growing popularity around the world and encouraged Americans to find an event in their own community.

“It’s about more than simply planting a tree,” Johanns said at the time. “Arbor Day highlights the important role every one of us plays in land stewardship.”

We heartily agree. Effective policy – in land use, resource management and environmental protection – is necessary but insufficient absent our own conservation vision and involvement. As Johanns has pointed out, many rural communities in Nebraska and elsewhere rely on natural resources for their livelihoods. That makes long-term, sustainable management of those resources crucial.

Forestry resources are also of growing importance to tourism and economic development in cities and towns of all sizes.

We were fortunate to welcome Johanns and members of his staff to Arbor Day Farm last March. While on the property, the Senator had a chance to tour the Tree Adventure attraction and our greenhouse and hazelnut growing facilities, as well as work alongside crew members as they packed tree seedlings to be mailed to Arbor Day Foundation’s members.

“Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Arbor Farms in Nebraska City, where Morton’s legacy lives on in the important work that is being done there,” Johanns said in an e-news update following his visit. “Staff at Arbor Farms prepare and ship between 30,000 to 50,000 tree seedlings daily to places all around the world. Celebrating Arbor Day is a tradition in our state that appeals to Nebraskans’ natural civic duty and passion for the land. I am proud to share in this celebration today with my fellow Nebraskans.”

Best wishes to Senator Johanns and his wife Stephanie – and we look forward to getting to know his successor in 2015.

ArborDayFarm_SenatorJohanns_TreePacking2-2

Senator Johanns takes a turn at packaging tree seedlings.

Looking back and looking forward in urban forestry

The Arbor Day Foundation was launched in 1972 during the tree-planting holiday’s centennial year. Much has happened in the 40 years since, and much work remains.

We have seen great progress, for example, in the spread of effective urban forest management. For many years, tree care at the municipal level was haphazard to non-existent. The standards and recognition of the Tree City USA program has helped to change that, due in large part to the partnership of the U.S. Forest Service and National Association of State Foresters.

The increased attention to urban trees care was alive at this year’s Partners in Community Forestry Conference, where a number of panelists pointed to street trees as central to creating great cities where people want to live.

In Richmond, California, and Baltimore, Maryland, and Camden, New Jersey, the beauty of newly-planted trees and community pride they inspire has strengthened neighborhoods and begun to put a dent in crime. Experts in planning and design say trees help attract new residents and commercial development. Trees are also central to the fight against climate change, with some communities finding innovative ways to include trees in cap-and-trade programs.

But urban forestry has also suffered from some setbacks. Heavy drought during the past two summers have killed or severely damaged millions of trees, with the U.S. Forest Service estimating that urban tree cover has been declining by 0.9 percent annually. Major storms have presented challenges for communities that contain both mature trees and above-ground power lines. And, declining resources have led some cities to pursue misguided policies that would transfer the responsibility for street trees from professionals to individual homeowners.

Solutions exist to all of these challenges, but they require continued management and resources. The Foundation will continue to advocate for both.

But some creativity may also be required. For example, rather than shifting tree care responsibility to people who not seek it, cities could follow the example of Chico, California, in pursuing voluntary tree care partnerships. With a declining tax base and abandoned neighborhoods, Detroit leaders opted for a controversial land purchase to allow for urban farming, an approach that has already found success in Chicago, Newark and elsewhere.

We look forward to your continued support and partnership as we continue to inspire people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees – both in our nation’s cities and throughout the country.

Maine recognizes leading individuals and organizations during Arbor Week

Known as The Pine Tree State for the extensive pine forests that cover the state, Maine celebrated its Arbor Week 2012 during the third full week in May, May 20th – 26th.

This year, the Bangor Daily News highlighted Project Canopy, “a collaboration between the Maine Forest Service and GrowSmart Maine.” According to the Daily News:

Through projects such as supporting planting street trees downtown or a management plan development for town forests, Project Canopy works to help Maine communities stay leafy and green.

Project Canopy honored Arbor Week 2012 by awarding communities with grants for tree planting projects in their downtowns:

Grants were awarded to the City of Saco for elm trees and Japanese lilacs along the Route 1 business district; to Norway Downtown for additional trees in downtown; to the City of Belfast for red maples as part of the City’s Harbor Walk project; and to the City of Bath for a total of 45 trees in eight separate planting projects throughout the downtown.

You can find more information about Project Canopy here.

Photo Credit: eHow

The Maine Department of Conservation also “recognized the importance of trees in urban settings and the dedication of Maine communities to caring for those trees during its 2012 Maine Arbor Week Celebration.”

Held at the Longfellow Elementary School in Portland, the celebration “honored the civic devotion of several notable Maine residents,” including Robert and Beverly Dutton, owners of Dutton’s Nursery of Morrill. The Duttons donated more than 1,000 trees to 60 Maine communities and non-profits.

Arbor Day Foundation members from Maine have helped plant more than 82,960 trees across the state last year.

The State of Maine is currently home to 18 certified Tree City USA communities. The largest Tree City USA community in Maine is Portland, population 64,000; the smallest is Castine, population 1,343.

Alaska plans Arbor Day around small window for spring planting

A little less than a month ago, Scoutmaster Duane Robison traveled to Nebraska to accept an Arbor Day Award on behalf of Boy Scout Troop 367 and Cup Scout Troop 367 for their  contribution to the 2011 Arbor Day Celebration in small-town Palmer.

Today, Palmer joins the Mat-Su Valley and the entire state of Alaska in marking the tree-planting holiday once more. Facing long and dark winters, Alaskans have a small window for getting new trees in the ground.

“We try to get the planting in when we can,” Robison said.

Last year, one hundred people came out for Palmer’s celebration from a variety of organizations. The youngest participant was a 7-year-old Tiger Cub from the Cub Scouts, who planted trees with a 97-year-old World War II veteran. The Scouts also helped establish a Veteran’s Grove in the heart of downtown Palmer and on the grounds of the local Alaska Veterans and Pioneers Home.

Alaska’s Division of Forestry stresses that trees and forests are “important to our way of life in Alaska, and as our towns grow, the value of trees increases.”

According to the state forestry officials, some towns in Alaska have lost as much as 40 percent of their tree canopy, hindering the ability to maintain clean air, safe drinking water and quality-of-life. The state has two full-time urban forestry staffers and a 5-year blueprint for improved community tree management.

The State of Alaska is currently home to 8 Tree City USA communities, accounting for 388,293 people. The largest Tree City USA in Alaska is Anchorage, population 286,174; the smallest is Eielson Air Force Base, population 2,740.

Here is our video about Troop 367 and Pack 367 from last month’s award.

North Dakota celebrates International Peace Garden, Vermont replants trees lost in Hurricane Irene

North Dakota

Nicknamed the “Peace Garden State” for being home to the International Peace Garden (a 2,339 acre Botanical Garden straddling the international Boundary between North Dakota and the Canadian province of Manitoba), the State of North Dakota honors Arbor Day today, the first Friday in May.

Photo Credit: Sterling News

The City of Fargo will honor Arbor Day with a tree planting by local elementary students and volunteers. The locations for the celebrations vary and include school grounds, parks city streets, bike trails and hiking areas. Bismarck will recognize Arbor Day by dedicating ceremonial Arbor Day trees to local citizens whose efforts have made a significant contribution to Bismarck’s urban forest.

According to the North Dakota Forest Service, the 2012 State Arbor Day Celebration will also honor the 100th Anniversary of the Girl Scouts by planting a “Girl Scout Grove” at the International Peace Garden. Opened in 1932, the International Peace Garden claims to be the longest unguarded border in the world. This event offers the North Dakota Forest Service an opportunity to recognize the Girl Scouts for their many years of hands-on tree planting accomplishments.

It is fitting for the Girls Scouts to celebrate their centennial at the International Peace Garden since they were involved in its dedication in 1932.

You can find more information about the Girl Scouts Centennial, here.

Arbor Day Foundation members have helped plant more than 33,662 trees across the state last year. The State of North Dakota is currently home to 46 Tree City USA communities. The largest Tree City USA in North Dakota is Fargo, population 99,200; the smallest is Pekin, population 80.

Vermont

During the fall, Vermont’s trees attract tourists from all over the United States who come to see the brilliant shades of red, yellow and orange foliage. Known as the “Green Mountain State” for its green, forest-covered mountains, Vermont also recognizes Arbor Day today.

Photo Credit: PRWeb

The Vermont Division of Forestry offers a variety of activities for Arbor Day 2012. Vermont students (grades 1-8th) can engage in learning about trees through the “Growing Works of Art” contest. This competition is meant to enrich students’ knowledge about Vermont’s trees and provide students with an opportunity to author what will become a set of trading cards to be collected by students across the state.  You can learn more about the Growing Works of Art contest, here.

Vermont also hosts a unique activity called the “Arbor Day Passport.”  Students (grades K-8th) complete a certain number of workbook projects to receive prizes such as a set of Tree Trading Cards or a Vermont State Parks day use pass. Learn more here.

Over the past year, Hurricane Irene caused some of the worst flooding Vermont had seen in 83 years. As a result of the tropical storm, many trees were blown down or damaged and had to be trimmed or taken down. Vermont was the first state to designate a day to clean up the entire state known as, “Green Up Day.”

This year, The State Irene Recovery Office has partnered with Green Up Vermont to incorporate Irene recovery activities into Green Up Day, creating the Green Up to Recover initiative. If you’re interested in being involved with the tree-planting or other environmental volunteer opportunities associated with Green Up Day, you can find more information here.

Arbor Day Foundation members have helped plant more than 65,715 trees across the state last year.  The State of Vermont is currently home to 8 Tree City USA communities. The largest Tree City USA in Vermont is Burlington, population 39,348; the smallest is Peacham, population 668.