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.


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.


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.


Dallas Morning News runs Arbor Day op-ed

John Rosenow, founder and chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation, had an op-ed  printed in the Dallas Morning News last Friday, April 27 – National Arbor Day.

In the piece, John discussed J. Sterling Morton’s wish for each generation to do its part as trustees of the earth. The spread of responsible urban forest management through Tree City USA, coupled with laws to protect our air, water and natural resources, are successes to celebrate, he writes. But in more recent years, he adds, the problem-solving conservationist spirit behind those milestones has diminished, with potentially destructive consequences for the earth.

The piece is best read in whole rather than snippets, so I will forgo attempting to summarize and instead invite you to read it for yourself here.

Wyoming inspires the Arbor Day spirit year-round

Wyoming marks Arbor Day today, the last Monday in April.

Cheyenne and Casper, the two largest cities in the sparsely-populated Equality State, both have activities planned.

Wyoming residents have often been an inspiration for the Arbor Day Foundation, and vice versa. The Casper-based Laurie’s Inn, the first certified Nature Explore classroom in the state of Wyoming, was recertified for the third year in a row in 2011. Inn owner and childcare provider Laura Stadtfeld is eager to share the wonders of the outdoors with both children and their families.

Likewise, Lisa Olson, director of forestry for Cheyenne, was inspired by the awesome and enriching experience children were having at our tree house here at Arbor Day Farm, an experience noted by our founder and chief executive John Rosenow during his remarks on the dedication of the new Discovery Ride Depot this past weekend.

As John described it, Lisa was so inspired by what she saw that she decided her hometown needed something similar. Lisa kept at it until her dream became a reality. Cheyenne now has a 20-foot tall tower adjoining a grove of ponderosa pine trees in the city’s Lions Park.

The enjoyment children derive from this community treasure in Cheyenne is plain to see. The success is obvious, according to Lisa. “When it came time to evaluate success of the project,” she says, “I suggested that the grantor simply look at how the wooden steps are already being worn down.”

Wyoming is currently home to 42 Tree City USA communities, accounting for 337,766 people. The largest Tree City USA in the State of Wyoming is Cheyenne, population 57,618; the smallest is Chugwater, population 244.

 Photo courtesy of the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce.

On Arbor Day, Nebraska is where it all began

It was 140 years ago that Nebraskan J. Sterling Morton proposed the nation’s first tree-planting holiday. A century later, the Arbor Day Foundation was launched, in large part to bring the spirit of conservation and stewardship to the forefront all year round.

The Foundation has grown and evolved a lot in the past 40 years, but the mission remains the same: we inspire people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees.

Nebraska is still steeped in Arbor Day history. The Foundation continues to make its headquarters in downtown Lincoln. Tomorrow, we will hold the 40th annual Arbor Day Awards at Lied Lodge & Conference on the Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City. The winners will accept their award on the ground Morton once called his own, the site of his 52-room mansion.

Morton’s politics stressed both conservatism and conservation, a marriage less common in these times. He saw people as earth’s trustees – if we take care of our natural resources, they will take care of us.

Born in Nebraska, Arbor Day is now celebrated in all 50 states and around the world.

Nebraska is currently home to 108 Tree City USA communities, accounting for 1.2 million people. The largest Tree City USA in Nebraska is Omaha, population 440,691; the smallest is Julian, population 71.

Three of Nebraska’s neighbors in the Great Plains are also celebrating today.

Iowa, to the east, is currently home to 87 Tree City USA communities, accounting for 1.4 million people. The largest Tree City USA in Iowa is Des Moines, population 190,000; the smallest is Westphalia, population 160.

Kansas, to Nebraska’s immediate south, is currently home to 104 Tree City USA communities, accounting for nearly two million people. The largest Tree City USA in Kansas is Wichita, population 346,000; the smallest is Formoso, population 100.

And, South Dakota, to the north, is currently home to 36 Tree City USA communities, accounting for about half a million people. The largest Tree City USA in South Dakota is Sioux Falls, population 157,937; the smallest is Buffalo Gap, population 125.

Image courtesy of the Nebraska Department of Roads.

Midwestern states offer a variety of Arbor Day activities, from Curious George reading to community tree planting

(Ed. Note: 24 states celebrate Arbor Day on the last Friday in April, the same date as National Arbor Day, which this year falls on the 27th. This week, we’ll be highlighting what a variety of regions are doing to prepare for the tree-planting holiday. Today, we will feature Midwest states; Monday was New England; Tuesday was the Mid-Atlantic; Wednesday was Western states; and Friday the Great Plains.)


The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois is hosting a variety of activities for Arbor Day 2012.  The beloved children’s character, Curious George, kicks off the Arboretum’s Arbor Day festivities. Children can meet Curious George, hear the story Curious George Plants a Tree and help George plant a tree.

In celebration of Arbor Day, the Morton Arboretum will also be tagging several thousand trees around the City of Chicago and seven communities (Glen Ellyn, Glendale Heights, Lombard, Wheaton, Downers Grove, Lisle, and Naperville) with green value tags, proclaiming their environmental worth in dollars. You can find out more about this project and the value of trees here. Additional Arbor Day activities can be found here.

Arbor Day Foundation members have helped plant more than 266,670 trees across the state last year.

The State of Illinois is currently home to 188 Tree City USA communities. The largest Tree City USA in Illinois is Chicago, population 2,746,590; the smallest is Steward, population 271.


The Indianapolis Power & Light Company recognizes Arbor Day 2012 by giving away 1,000 free trees as part of the Indy Free Tree program. The Indy Free Tree program aims to promote stewardship of the environment as well as to educate the public about the importance of trees, caring for trees and planting the “Right Tree in the Right Place” so as not to interfere with power lines.

Arbor Day Foundation members have helped plant more than 279,584 trees across the state last year. If you’re interested in Arbor Day activities or tree planting volunteer opportunities in your area, please visit the Volunteer Center.

The State of Indiana is currently home to 67 Tree City USA communities. The largest Tree City USA in Indiana is Indianapolis, population 860,454; the smallest is Mount Ayr, population 130.


Join Michigan’s Go Green Youth Challenge to honor Arbor Day this year. According to the Michigan Arbor Day Alliance website, the Go Green Youth Challenge is a statewide initiative to engage youth in environmental stewardship, community development and service-learning by participating in a campaign to plant trees in Michigan.

Photo Credit:

Youth (K-12) are challenged to collect coins as an individual, classroom or club. The coins collected will directly fund community tree plantings. Tree planting sites include school yards, cities and towns and conservation areas such as stream bank stabilization and habitat restoration.  Check for your or other community Arbor Day celebrations in Michigan here.

Arbor Day Foundation members have helped plant more than 405,923 trees across the state last year. The State of Michigan is currently home to 120 Tree City USA communities. The largest Tree City USA in Michigan is Detroit, population 850,000; the smallest is Richland, population 725.


Minnesota’s 2012 Arbor Month theme is “Creating a Healthy Community Forest.” The idea is to encourage planting a wide variety of native trees to create a diverse community forest that is more resilient to large-scale devastation by tree pests. To help diversify community forests, the DNR created A Homeowner’s Guide to Creating a Healthy Yard. You can download the guide here.

You can visit Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources website to find more activity suggestions for community Arbor Day Celebrations throughout the state.

Arbor Day Foundation members have helped plant more than 225,665 trees across the state last year. The State of Minnesota is currently home to 96 Tree City USA communities. The largest Tree City USA in Minnesota is Minneapolis, population 372,833; the smallest is Sunfish Lake, population 525.


Various Ohio communities are honoring Arbor Day with tree giveaways, nature walks and informational sessions on how to be responsible stewards of the earth.  Wilberforce University students and staff celebrated Arbor Day early on April 18, by planting 50 trees on campus. The trees were supplied by the Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota.

Arbor Day Foundation members have helped plant more than 438,024 trees across Ohio last year. If you’re interested in Arbor Day activities or tree planting volunteer opportunities in your area, please visit the Volunteer Center.

The State of Ohio is currently home to 244 Tree City USA communities. The largest Tree City USA in Ohio is Columbus, population 769,360; the smallest is Put-In-Bay, population 128.


Communities in Pennsylvania are celebrating Arbor Day 2012 with festivals, tree giveaways, arborist demonstrations and tree tours.

Photo Credit: Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Westchester will be showcasing its methods of combating the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive beetle species that threatens the survival of Pennsylvania’s ash trees. The city of Westchester will be presenting an Emerald Ash Borer management plan and demonstrating how property owners can combat the insect that they hope others communities will embrace and implement.

Arbor Day Foundation members have helped plant more than 391,469 trees across the state last year. If you’re interested in Arbor Day activities or tree planting volunteer opportunities in your area, please visit the Volunteer Center.

The State of Pennsylvania is currently home to 108 Tree City USA communities. The largest Tree City USA in Pennsylvania is Philadelphia, population 1,540,539; the smallest is Eagles Mere, population 150.