Tree City USA is celebrating 40 years! The following guest post is part of a Tree City USA series that features the 16 communities that have been recognized all 40 years of the program.
Written By: Larry Kotchman, North Dakota State Forester
This year, we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City USA program. Sixteen communities across the nation have been part of the Tree City USA program since the beginning in 1976. Grand Forks and Mandan, North Dakota, are two of those original communities being honored for their commitment to preserve and enhance their public trees.
The recent North Dakota State Arbor Day events recognizing Grand Forks and Mandan were special. Community leaders, students and the public celebrated the 40th anniversary by planting trees to commemorate the events. Dozens of enthusiastic students from Discovery Elementary School planted 40 trees to mark 40 years of Arbor Day celebrations in Grand Forks. Mandan’s Lewis and Clark Elementary School students planted a Thunder Child flowering crabapple tree to honor their community forestry accomplishments. For many young students, it was their first chance to plant a tree. Hopefully, these Arbor Day observances sparked their interest and a new generation of tree planters will take root.
For 40 years, the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City USA program has been instrumental in promoting the importance of planting and caring for trees. My introduction to the program began with presenting Grand Forks its first Tree City USA award while I was serving as a new district forester in North Dakota. As state forester, I now had the privilege to join community supporters in celebrating their 40th anniversary. Grand Forks and Mandan have developed outstanding community forestry programs for which they can be very proud. Other communities have emulated their success leading to remarkable growth in the Tree City USA program. The original 16 cities now include more than 3,400 communities nationwide with 51 being recognized in North Dakota. Sibley, North Dakota, population 28, holds the distinction of being the smallest Tree City USA community. New York City, population 8.4 million, is the largest.
My commitment to Tree City USA started in Grand Forks forty years ago. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to contribute to the program and to support North Dakota communities in establishing urban and community forestry programs. The credit for achieving the Tree City USA standards belongs to our participating community leaders, tree boards, volunteers and city residents who value trees. In North Dakota, we are gratified that 67 percent of our citizens reside in a Tree City. Being a Tree City improves the quality of life in our state and beyond. Trees enhance our neighborhoods by increasing property values, reducing home heating and cooling costs, removing air pollutants and reducing storm water runoff from city streets.
Presenting Grand Forks Mayor, Michael Brown, and Mandan Mayor, Arlyn Van Beek, with a special flag and plaque commemorating 40 years as a Tree City is a testimony to the nation’s successful Tree City USA program. In 1976, the Arbor Day Foundation envisioned a program aligned with its mission to inspire people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees. I think Tree City USA perfectly fulfills this mission.
Mandan, ND photo credit: Joel Nichols, Community Forestry Specialist, North Dakota Forest Service, Bismarck, ND
Grand Forks, ND photo credit: Tom Claeys, Forestry and Fire Management Team Leader, North Dakota Forest Service, Bismarck, ND