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Arbor Day

The first Arbor Day was celebrated in Nebraska on April 10, 1872. It is estimated that more than a million trees were planted across the state of Nebraska on that first Arbor Day. This tree planting holiday was the brain child of J. Sterling Morton, a journalist who moved to Nebraska in the mid 1850s. Arbor Day was a result of the appreciation he had for trees.

Arbor Day is celebrated on many different days throughout the country. The earliest date is in Florida and Louisiana where they celebrate on the third Friday in January. In South Carolina, the first Friday in December is Arbor Day. In Colorado, we celebrate Arbor Day on the third Friday in April; for most of Colorado, this date is ideal for tree planting. However, mountain communities usually wait until May or June. Some communities combine the Arbor Day observance with Earth Day, which is celebrated on April 22nd. The Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) can provide information and ideas on how to celebrate this tree planters’ holiday. Arbor Day can be any day you choose to plant a tree.

Tree City USA

The National Arbor Day Foundation, in conjunction with the United States Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters, sponsors the Tree City USA program. This program, in existence since 1976, recognizes communities for their tree care programs.

To Become a Tree City USA, a Community Must Annually Satisfy the Following Four Standards:

  • A Tree Board or Department – Most communities are not large enough to support a staff position devoted entirely to the care of trees within the town limits. Therefore, a group of citizens is appointed and charged by an ordinance to develop and administer a tree management program for trees on public property. This group of citizens usually serves on a voluntary basis much like other boards in a municipality. Some communities have elected to have the city council or trustees serve as the Tree Board. Larger cities usually have salaried employees to care for public trees.
  • A Community Tree Ordinance – This ordinance gives power to the tree board or department. The ordinance determines public tree care policies for planting, maintenance and removals on public property. A list of recommended trees for the community should be referenced in this ordinance and made available to the citizens of that community.
  • A Community Forestry Program with an Annual Budget of at Least $2 Per Capita – A town must spend at least $2 per capita on the community forestry program. Examples of acceptable tree-related expenditures include: planting, removals, inventories, maintenance, pest surveys, pruning, public classes on tree care and educational handouts. These expenditures must be applied toward, and directly benefit, the public trees in the community.
  • An Arbor Day Observance and Proclamation – Arbor Day must be celebrated to fulfill the fourth standard. A proclamation issued by the mayor must accompany the observance, declaring the observance of Arbor Day in the community.

Tree Grants

CSFS assists communities wishing to avail themselves of several grants available for public tree planting and education about trees. All tree grants require a level of match by the applicant and, in addition, an action plan. If trees are to be planted a maintenance plan is also required.

The Colorado Tree Coalition (CTC) grant can be for tree planting or educational projects concerning proper tree planting, maintenance or management of the urban forest.

This CTC grant is available to local governments, neighborhood groups and private non-profit organizations. Applicants can request from $500 to $2,000 but must match the requested amount. The match must be with non-federal dollars; in-kind personnel and volunteer services will not be considered as a suitable match. The grant project must have an educational component to it. Grant applications are usually available in the fall with a deadline of mid-December to a local CSFS forester.

Tree Care

A community forest is a dynamic entity. As a result, community tree care managers must address the needs and health of these trees annually. The Gunnison Field Office has several programs to assist communities in the effective management of their urban forests.

  1. A tree inventory of the public trees is often the first step toward
    effectively managing the community forest. A tree inventory can be very useful to the community; it will identify tree species, hazardous trees, pruning needs, insect problems, incidence of disease and open spaces available for tree planting. The inventory is an integral part of any long range plan to sustain the urban forest.
  2. The Gunnison Field Office conducts sick tree calls, by appointment, for private property owners throughout our service area and offers diagnosis and tree care recommendations.
  3. CSFS offers arboriculture courses to tree care personnel in local communities. The knowledge gained through these workshops helps communities maintain healthy forests.

Champion Tree Program

American Forests maintains a national registry of the largest trees in the nation. The Colorado Tree Coalition (CTC) administers the Champion Tree Program in Colorado but, since this is a largely volunteer organization, CSFS assists CTC by locating champions, publicizing the program and educating Coloradoans about our “champion” trees.

If you think you might have a champion, take the following measurements:

  • Colorado champion pine – (1) circumference at breast height (i.e. 4-1/2 feet above the ground), (2) overall height and (3) average crown spread
  • The Formula: Circumference (inches) + Height (feet) + 1/4 of the Average Crown Spread = TOTAL POINTS
  • If you think that you have a potential champion, call or write to the CSFS. You can see some of these big trees on the champion tree poster published by the CTC in 1996.

Community Forestry Links

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