Planting trees alongside new development builds better neighborhoods

Last week, a reporter from the Memphis Commercial Appeal reached out to us about a city initiative to plant more than 1,000 trees in concert with a new uptown development project.

The Foundation is rarely involved in a specific project like that, but from our experience working with communities on urban forestry throughout the country — including the nearly 3,500 Tree City USAs — we are well equipped to speak to benefits of new trees.

The Memphis neighborhood is historic but currently underdeveloped, and city officials envision leafy streets and a strong community feel as homeowners settle over the next few decades. As reporter Tom Bailey Jr. points out, potential buyers are purchasing a neighborhood as a much as the home itself:

“Can we put a dollar value on what a tree does to a house?” said Carol Lott, president of the Memphis Area Association of Realtors. “Probably not. I don’t think we could add $500 or $1,000 per tree. But I just think it’s got an overall better curb appeal and a more mature feeling to a neighborhood.”

According to the article, landscape architecture firm Richie Smith Associates drew up the tree-planting blueprint, one of the largest in Memphis in the last 25 years. The new trees will be comprised of native species (including the northern red oak, pictured at right) that will minimize strain on sidewalks and city infrastructure.

The project also included pruning and maintaining the existing 550 neighborhood trees, with removal pursued where a young replacement makes more sense.

Bailey asked about the benefits of these trees, and I pointed out that future residents would be especially grateful that planting was done sooner rather than later. Shaded streets can often signify the difference between a community and an anonymous cul-de-sac. And, with more Americans moving into or back to urban areas, building and maintaining great neighborhoods is crucial.

Earlier this year, a group of volunteers and civic leaders renewed their push to achieve Tree City USA designation for Memphis. We look forward to adding them to the list.

Tree City USA website updated to reflect 2011 winners

Following months of reviewing applications and with Arbor Day behind us, we are now able to share an updated list of Tree City USA communities from the 2011 calendar year.

Tree City USA, now in its 36th year, is sponsored by the Foundation, the United States Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters. The early support of the U.S. Forest Service was a major impetus behind their 2012 Arbor Day Award for A Legacy of Partnership.

The Tree City USA program boosts tremendous growth in participation and a near-perfect renewal rate. In order to become a Tree City USA, communities must maintain four standards:

  • A tree board of department
  • A tree care ordinance
  • A annual community forestry budget of at least $2 per capita
  • An Arbor Day observance and proclamation

As in previous years, communities that reach an even higher standard of urban forest management are recognized with a Tree City USA Growth America.

Check our website to find out if your community is a Tree City USA.

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.

Western states sport forests in vast mountain ranges and dense urban centers

(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 Western states; Monday was New England; yesterday was the Mid-Atlantic; Thursday the Midwest; and Friday the Great Plains.)

Four Western States – Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Utah – and one Southwestern State – Texas – are among the two dozen whose state Arbor Day celebration coincides with the national holiday this Friday. Tree-lined Boise, the capital of Idaho, is pictured above.

While information on Arbor Day activities from state officials is limited, residents are encouraged to take advantage of the Volunteer Center.


The Montana, Wyoming and Idaho-based Greater Yellowstone Whitebark Pine Committee is one of 16 individuals and organizations being recognized by the Foundation at the annual Arbor Day Awards.

Whitebark pine trees are critical to the ecosystem of the Greater Yellowstone Area, but the species faces several threats, including white pine blister rust, increasing mountain pine beetle outbreaks and competition from other forest species. The Greater Yellowstone Whitebark Pine Committee has been effective at beginning to address those threats.

The State of Idaho is currently home to 71 Tree City USA communities, accounting for nearly one million people. The largest Tree City USA in Idaho is Boise, population 205,314; the smallest is Menan, population 102.


Montana, a name derived from the Spanish word for mountains, is about one-third mountain ranges. It is one of the least populous states in the country, sending only one representative to the U.S. House, despite covering 150,000 square miles.

Gallatin National Forest covers more than two million acres in south central Montana. The forest has been the focus of replanting efforts led by the Foundation and Enterprise. Bitteroot National Forest has also been targeted for replanting.

The State of Montana is currently home to 42 Tree City USA communities, accounting for nearly half a million people. The largest Tree City USA in Montana is Billings, population 105,845; the smallest is Drummond, population 325.


The Silver State is vast and mountainous, with the bulk of its people condensed into large metropolitan areas like Las Vegas and Reno. Nevada also sports some of the hottest and driest temperatures in the country. The shading effect of a well-placed tree is invaluable.

The State of Nevada is currently home to 12 Tree City USA communities, accounting for 1.3 million people. The largest Tree City USA in Nevada is Las Vegas, population 606,846; the smallest is Nas Fallon, population 3,000.


The Beehive State has large patches of uninhabited land, much of which is owned by the Federal Government. While dispersed on the whole, Utah is in fact one of the more urbanized states in the country. It is also among the fastest-growing.

Utah joins a number of states in offering an Arbor Day poster contest for children.

The State of Utah is currently home to 77 Tree City USA communities, accounting for 1.8 million people. The largest Tree City USA in Utah is Salt Lake City, population 174,000; the smallest is New Harmony, population 209.


In February, we wrote about the Lone Star State’s loss of 5.6 million urban trees this year due to drought. Fortunately, many of the largest cities in Texas are making a concerted effort to plant and nurture their trees.

The Committed to Community Growth Program, a project of Irving-based TXU Energy, is also receiving an Arbor Day Award this weekend in recognition of its effective partnership to improve the tree canopy in population-rich North Texas.

The State of Texas is currently home to 72 Tree City USA communities, accounting for 10 million people. The largest Tree City USA in Texas is Houston, population 2.3 million; the smallest is Buffalo Gap, population 463.


Maryland celebrates Arbor Day, Governor O’Malley among Arbor Day Award winners to be announced this month

Marylanders celebrate Arbor Day today, though it’s easy to forget – they do do such a good job planting and celebrating trees throughout the year.

Governor Martin O’Malley, once dubbed a modern-day ‘Johnny Appleseed’ by his Gubernatorial colleagues, has a lot to do with that.

Under his Marylanders Plant Trees program, citizens have planted more than 75,000 trees in just three years – 25,000 every year. Governor O’Malley has challenged citizens to double that goal and plant 50,000 trees by the end of 2012.

Under the state’s Forest Brigade program, inmates in Maryland prisons have planted trees on the state’s public lands in 20 of Maryland’s 23 counties, as well as the City of Baltimore. The work was done by inmates on the pathway to release, giving them a leg up on potential job skills while working to beautify the state with new trees.

Governor O’Malley will be the recipient of the Vision Award from the Arbor Day Foundation later this month. More information on this year’s Arbor Day Award winners will be announced later this month, and all winners will participate in a ceremony at Lied Lodge & Conference Center at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City on April 28.

The state’s Department of Natural Resources has a website containing Arbor Day history and ways Marylanders can celebrate.

The State of Maryland is currently home to 38 Tree City USA communities, accounting for 3.4 million people. The largest Tree City USA community in Maryland  is Prince George’s County, population 820,852; the smallest is Lock Lynn Heights, population 469.

Video is courtesy of the State of Maryland.

Arbor Week celebrated throughout Oklahoma

Oklahoma has been bustling with Arbor Week activities since kicking off the tree planting holiday on Sunday, March 25.

In Oklahoma City, residents and visitors surveyed the almost-complete arboretum at Will Rogers Garden, a half-million dollar project funded by the Oklahoma City Community Foundation to revive the underdeveloped tree canopy.

The arboretum, which will soon include more accessible sidewalks and pathways, was first built as a Depression-era public works project.

The University of Oklahoma, located in Norman, celebrated yesterday around the theme “A Planting Tradition,” with a picnic and tree planting, accompanied by the OU Jazz Combo. Campus President David Boren, a former governor and U.S. Senator from Oklahoma, spoke about the importance of tree planting and Arbor Day. According to the Norman Transcript, Boren called tree planting a “truly selfless act.”

“The thousandth tree will be a water oak, which is one of the biggest, tallest and longest-living trees. It will live for at least 100 years and will stand as a great symbol for what we do here each year,” Boren said.

Oklahoma State University, a first-year Tree Campus USA located in Stillwater, hosted a Campus Beautification Day yesterday, and the Oklahoma Forestry Services is sponsoring a poster contest for fifth graders. Last year’s winning entry from a student in Paul’s Valley is shown above.

The State of Oklahoma is currently home to 25 Tree City USA communities. The largest Tree City USA in Oklahoma is Oklahoma City, population 540,000; the smallest is Morrison, population 636.

Happy Arbor Day to North Carolina and Arizona

Last week, Californians observed Arbor Week and New Mexicans marked Arbor Day. Now, it’s North Carolina and Arizona’s turn to celebrate.

Both states celebrate the holiday earlier than National Arbor Day to align with the best time of year for planting.

North Carolina is the Tar Heel State – and the Tar Heel also serves as the mascot for the flagship University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill. The best guess is that the name comes from the tar and pitch produced by the state’s large pine forests.

North Carolinians appreciate their state’s urban and state and national forests on the outer banks, the Appalachian Mountains and everywhere in between.

The North Carolina Forest Service also sponsors an Arbor Day Poster Contest every year, with the 2012 winning entry from a Kinston fifth-grader shown above.

The state is home to 74 Tree City USA communities, accounting for a total population of nearly 3.7 million. The largest Tree City USA in North Carolina is Charlotte, population 726,000; the smallest is Bath, population 304.

Like in neighboring New Mexico, Arbor Day is more understated in Arizona, in part because large deserts make tree planting a challenge.

Arizona’s unique climate makes it hospitable for a number of trees that would be unable to survive elsewhere, like the Arizona Cypress. A southwest native with soft- textured gray and green foliage and rough shredding gray brown bark, the Arizona Cypress thrives in hardiness zones 7 through 9, which effectively excludes much of the country.

The State of Arizona is currently home to 22 Tree City USA communities, accounting for more than 4 million people. The largest Tree City USA in Arizona is Phoenix, population 1.5 million; the smallest is Quartzsite, population 3,600.

Diversity of trees crucial to urban forestry success

Whether for disaster recovery, beautification, or something else, as cities are planting trees, it behooves them to be aware of how each unique tree species varies in the benefits it can provide to the urban environment.

The updated release of the USDA plant hardiness zone map has indicated the potential affect changing climate conditions will have on the survival of certain plant species. In addition to the new map, a recent Science 2.0 article revealed the results of a collaborative study from the Sapienza University of Rome and Portland State University. This study determined that biodiversity in urban forests impacts the removal of ozone from a city’s atmosphere.

In other words, different groups of tree species perform different levels of ozone uptake activities at different times (and temperatures), ultimately complementing each other and working together synergistically.

The ozone is a necessary chemical that protects us against the sun’s rays, while exerting its own negative impact on the environment by damaging man-made materials and polluting crops. Understanding which tree species can survive in your city and which species are best for removing ozone can result in long-term benefits for you and your community.

In urban areas, ozone can be problematic and removal services costly. Learning how different tree species respond to environmental conditions would aid managers in developing systems for planting the right amount of trees in the right places. According to Science 2.0:

Managers in several U.S. cities–including D.C., New York, Baltimore, Atlanta, and Chicago–already tout urban forests as a cost-effective method of reducing air pollution, and these results suggest that other cities would experience similar benefits. Given that over half the world’s population currently lives in ever-expanding urban areas, this management practice could improve air quality for a significant number of people.

The Arbor Day Foundation has been extolling the dynamic benefits of urban forests for decades. Urban forests raise property value, add aesthetic appeal, lower temperatures, change wind patterns, reduce energy use (and costs) and improve air quality. Through its Tree City USA program, the Arbor Day Foundation has awarded national recognition to over 3,400 communities (where over 135 million people live) for implementing their own urban and community forest sustainability programs.

Planting trees in your city provide many benefits. So plant trees…and plant a variety of trees, in the right places to make those benefits count.

Parks superintendent in Redding, CA an evangelist for community trees

It’s Arbor Week in California, and Redding – a medium-sized city in the Northern reaches of the state – is celebrating by giving away 800 frees trees and shrubs to community members.

Redding is in its 31st year as a Tree City USA. The city-run energy provider, Redding Electric Utility, is an 18-year Tree Line USA, in recognition of its commitment to managing trees effectively.

Paul Anderson, the city’s parks superintendent, wrote in an op-ed this week that Redding planted more than 195,000 trees last year, and plans to plant even more in 2012.

“I consider myself lucky to live in a city that has such a commitment to the environment and to the preservation and continued activity of planting new trees in the community,” he wrote in the Record-Searchlight. “Tree planting is at an all-time high in California.”

The Sacramento River Trail provides a scenic experience for Redding residents and visitors seeking outdoor activities like walking, biking and boating. The photo above features the view from a café at Turtle Bay Exploration Park, which is accessible by the trail.

Anderson said he has seen the direct benefit of trees first-hand, and hopes to continue to convince others of their enduring value.

The majority of the public is not against trees; they are indifferent. They shouldn’t be. Study after study links urban greenery with improved public health, fewer people are overweight, residents are more likely to be more active, children have reduced symptoms of ADD and asthma, and stress levels in all residents are lower.

With local leaders like Anderson, we’re confident that California will have plenty to celebrate for many Arbor Weeks to come.

Photo courtesy of American Trails.