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.

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