“Other holidays repose upon the past; Arbor Day proposes for the future.” That quote, by J. Sterling Morton, says it all for this spring holiday. The last Friday in April is when Idaho celebrates Arbor Day. It’s also the day of the national celebration but we should celebrate trees every day of the week. We’d be in a world of trouble without them. Not only do they look beautiful, but they also clean our air, increase property values, mitigate storm water issues, have enormous benefits for energy conservation and nurture our sense of well-being.
Some of you may not be aware that the first Arbor Day was celebrated in Nebraska City, Nebraska in 1872. Over a million trees were planted that first year when J. Sterling Morton, the editor of Nebraska’s first newspaper, finally convinced the Department of Agriculture that trees were of such value that they needed a special day of recognition.
Have you ever wondered what the Tree City USA sign means that you see posted outside some communities? In 1976, almost a hundred years after the first Arbor Day, the National Arbor Day Foundation wanted to recognize communities that were making a special effort to maintain and increase the trees in their communities. In a partnership with the Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters, a special award was started to honor these cities. Four standards must be met for a city to receive this award. A community must have a tree committee or board, an ordinance must be passed to address tree management issues, $2.00 per capita must be spent on public tree care and finally, Arbor Day must be celebrated. There are over 3400 Tree Cities in this country with 67 communities in Idaho proudly displaying the signs and flags of Tree City USA. If your community isn’t one of them, ask about the possibility at your city hall. Be willing to be on a tree committee in your community. It’s a great way to show some civic pride by helping with tree care and planting in the place you call home.
If your city didn’t have an Arbor day celebration, or you couldn’t participate, plan on planting a tree at home or ask your community about planting a memorial tree in a park or other public location. The planting doesn’t have to be planted only in memory of someone who has passed; a tree can be planted to memorialize an event like a birth, a wedding, an anniversary or other happy occasion. For whatever reason, plant a tree. Make sure you choose the right tree for the right spot. Don’t put a tree that will grow taller than 30 feet tall under power lines or plant a tree that likes dry soil near a spot that is a swamp.
With a little planning and the right conditions, the tree you plant today will be shading your ancestors for years to come.