In 1854, J. Sterling Morton, a prominent newspaper editor and publisher, moved from Detroit to the area that is now Nebraska. He and other pioneers noticed a lack of trees, which were needed to act as windbreaks to stabilize the soil and to give shade from the sun. Morton planted many trees around his own home and encouraged others to do the same.
On January 4, 1872, he proposed a holiday to plant trees on the tenth of April that year. This was known as “Arbor Day” and prizes were awarded to the counties and individuals who planted the most trees on that day. About one million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day. Today, Arbor Day is celebrated around the world. For years these celebrations have highlighted and extolled the benefits of trees.
Trees can reduce the erosion of top soil, clean the air we breathe, produce oxygen, and reduce cooling costs. They increase property value while decreasing crime rates, provide habitats for animals, and act as a renewable resource for homes, paper and fires. The presence of trees enhances our sense of community and trees beautify our communities, especially in spring, when we celebrate this special day.
Arbor Day is a time for people to get their hands in the dirt and plant and care for trees, bushes and plants. Many communities plan special events to commemorate this special day. Events include tree plantings, exhibitions, fairs, musical performances and open days in garden centers. Arbor Day awards are also presented in communities, schools, and organizations throughout the United States. These celebrations are also a good time to recognize communities involved in the Tree City, Line and Campus USA programs, which provide opportunities for additional recognition for a commitment to caring for trees.
This year consider celebrating your community trees. The Arbor Day Foundation is a great resource for finding materials to help with celebrations, or to learn more about the programs mentioned above. The DNR website also has an Arbor Day page with information about the day and materials to help you celebrate.
As J. Sterling Morton said, “Each generation takes the earth as trustees. We ought to bequeath to posterity as many forests and orchards as we have exhausted and consumed.” Pass along the tradition and beauty of trees.
For more information contact Ellen Clark (EllenA.Clark@Wisconsin.gov), Urban Forestry Communication Specialist, at 608-267-2774.