Celebrate Arbor Day

Celebrating Arbor Day and Urban Forestry

By Dan Lambe | April 29, 2016

As we make our way through the month of April, drawing nearer to Arbor Day, I can’t help but think about the history of the holiday. Over the last 144 years, people across the country — and around the world — have been planting trees on Arbor Day. It’s exciting to see a universal desire to celebrate trees and all they do for us. It’s also exciting to watch the continued revitalization of America’s forests.

But how do you define “forest”? Many think of forests as expansive wilderness, most likely National Forests and Parks. Places where bears, moose and wolves roam free. Places for camping and fishing and wildlife excursions. These forests are critically important for watershed protection, air and water quality, wildlife habitat and much more. But today I’d like to address another kind of forest, the forest where you live, work and play every day: the urban forest.

Now perhaps you’re asking yourself, “Wait, what’s an urban forest?” It’s a common question with an easy answer. Walk outside and look around. See all those trees? That’s an urban forest — a culmination of all the trees in your town or city. And don’t think the term “urban forest” can’t apply to smaller communities; urban forests exist everywhere from quaint villages to small towns to expansive cities.

An urban forest is always hard at work reducing energy costs by shading homes, improving air quality, controlling stormwater runoff, making neighborhoods safer and beautifying public spaces. Many of these trees, such as street trees and trees in public space, are managed by the city municipality and need ongoing care and maintenance. That’s where the Tree City USA program comes into play.

Celebrating its 40th anniversary, Tree City USA helps towns and cities develop a plan to plant and care for the trees of their urban forests. More than 3,400 communities of all sizes are involved in this program — from New York City (population 8.4 million) to Sibley, North Dakota (population 28). To receive Tree City USA certification, municipalities are required to meet four core standards of sound urban forestry management. Meeting these core standards means a community is committed to keeping its trees healthy and public spaces green.

Everyone benefits when elected officials, volunteers and committed citizens make smart investments in urban forests. Trees are a natural solution to helping create vibrant and resilient communities. They frame our neighborhoods and help to create a sense of place for us. They are also the most effective tool for protecting cities from devastating storms and helping them withstand emerging changes in weather patterns.

This year National Arbor Day falls on April 29. Regardless of where you live, I encourage you all to celebrate by planting a tree and exploring the wonders of the forest surrounding you…urban or wilderness. After all, we have a lot to thank our trees for.

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  • Reply Jack May 2, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    Our community was out in style, planting trees downtown and elsewhere! Great service and great community builder–keep the great work!

  • Reply Owen Staples May 4, 2016 at 9:10 am

    Love it! It’s just what is needed. Glad to be on board, and to help the message to reach out. Keep up the good work!

  • Reply Joe May 4, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    Very dissatisfied with my service. I didn’t receive the trees i ordered for the second year in a row! I will no longer join membership, donate any money or order anything from the foundation!

    • Reply Sheereen Othman May 4, 2016 at 2:52 pm

      Hi Joe,

      We’re sorry to hear about your service, that’s not the experience we want to leave you with. Please call our member service department 1-888-448-7337 so we can send out replacement packages for the ones that didn’t reach you.

  • Reply Sharon Hagan March 5, 2017 at 7:35 am

    I went to Arbor Day. Cold wait. Appreciate all, and I had thoroughly searched your site plus others, selecting four suitable bushes. Brought them home, went and purchased potting soil, potted them. So the following evening I find on your site instructions for planting the trees. NOW I do not know whether to take them out of the potting soil and plant them or if I probably have already wasted my efforts. HELP,

    • Reply Geoff Cook March 7, 2017 at 8:34 am

      Sharon, we appreciate that you’ve selected and planted four suitable bushes. We generally recommend planting young bushes and trees directly into the ground, and using the natural soil. When that’s not possible, we suggest using topsoil (free of fertilizers, potting soil, or other amendments – because those additives can occasionally cause root burn to the delicate root systems). Depending on the type and amount of potting soil you’ve used, your new bushes might thrive just fine the way that you’ve planted them. For a second and local opinion, you could consult with County Extension Office, and/or Master Gardener network. If you feel like it will not be too much trouble, you might consider replacing half of the potting soil with top soil / compost. We wish you and your new bushes great success in the future!

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