Arbor Day On Steroids

Atlanta, Georgia, Tree City USA winner

Have you ever driven into a community and seen a sign commemorating that they are a “Tree City USA” winner designation? I have done that many times, but I never realized what it actually means. I live in Shaker Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. I just found out that we have been designated such for 39 consecutive years but have never seen a sign at our community boundary. Being in the tree business, I know it is a good designation, but I figure I better find out what it means, especially during this time of year when we celebrate Earth Month, Earth Day, and Arbor Day. So, let’s find out together.

Tree City USA History

When you are named a Tree City USA designee, it means you have met the criteria established by the Arbor Day Foundation as well as that of the National Association of State Foresters. According to Arbor Day’s website, Tree City USA started in 1976 and is one of the Arbor Day Foundation’s oldest programs. Its founders had a vision for a greener, healthier America, and hoped this initiative would inspire change on a nationwide level. The first Tree City USA member list was comprised of 42 communities in 16 states. Today, the program includes more than 3,600 communities from all 50 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico.

The National Association of State Foresters, according to its website, was born in 1920 and has served as a leading authority on forest management in the United States. NASF’s membership is composed of the directors of forestry agencies in the 50 states, five U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. Through its members, referred to as “state foresters,” the association advocates for federal legislation and national policies that promote the health, resilience, and productivity of both rural and urban forests.

State forestry agencies are the primary delivery system for forest management activities nationwide. They conserve, enhance, and protect state and private forests, which encompass nearly two-thirds of the nation’s forests, and are responsible for wildfire protection on more than 1.5 billion acres.  To that end, NASF administers another award that many of us are familiar with, the Smokey Bear Award. In the world of wildfire prevention, there is no greater honor than to receive a Smokey Bear Award. These special awards are reserved for people or organizations that provide sustained, outstanding service.

Urban forestry tree planting in Georgia

Tree City USA Benefits

Urban Forestry has become a buzzword over the past decade as many communities and government officials have come to recognize the benefits of trees in their community. The Gifted Tree’s blog on this topic highlights many of these benefits, but it is always helpful to refresh your memory as increasing the tree population in your geo-space yields so many wonderful results. A thriving urban tree canopy helps:

  • Increase property values in your community.
  • Provides natural air conditioning by keeping surroundings cooler as climate change has increased ambient temperatures. (It doesn’t take long to realize this in the summer if you lose a large shade tree on your property.)
  • Act as a sound buffer, absorbing traffic noise and other high decibel creating annoyances.
  • Protecting buildings from damage caused by high winds.
  • Help fight the damaging effects of climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and finally,
  • Create green space in neighborhoods which is critical to improving mental and physical health.

Tree City USA Standards

To become a Tree City USA “winner”, communities must demonstrate meeting four standards:

  1. Maintaining a tree board or department
  2. Having a community tree ordinance
  3. Spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry
  4. Celebrating Arbor Day, which this year is on Friday, April 26

How You Can Help

If your community is not part of the Tree USA group, and you have passion for trees, solicit your government officials to join the program. Publicly demonstrating a community’s commitment to the environment is a great way to build pride among residents, as well as position your community as an attractive place to live. The benefits trees bring to a city environment are numerous. Why not have that Tree City USA sign at the entrance to your neighborhood to let all know that you celebrate trees and the benefits they bring to the environment. The Gifted Tree is helping with urban forestry by now offering tree planting locations not just in national forests but in urban areas as well – New York City, Newark, New Jersey, and the Chicagoland area. When you plant a memorial or celebration tree, just select an urban planting location. Any questions, feel free to contact us directly. We want to help you celebrate Arbor Day all year long.