What Is Arbor Day?

Riverland Terrace Neighborhood Association 100+ year old live oak trees in Charleston, South Carolina.

National Arbor Day in the US is April 26, 2019. The annual holiday began in 1872 in Nebraska. More than 1 million trees were planted on the first Arbor Day. J. Sterling Morton first proposed a tree-planting holiday to be called “Arbor Day” to the State Board of Agriculture. Prizes were offered to counties and individuals for planting the most trees.

Former President Richard Nixon declared Arbor Day a national holiday in 1972. It is always the last Friday in April.

The Spanish village of Mondoñedo held the first documented arbor plantation festival in the world organized by its mayor in 1594. The People’s Republic of China celebrates Arbor Day on March 12.

The Time for Trees

The Arbor Day Foundation launched The Time for Trees initiative to “plant 100 million trees in forests and communities around the globe” and “inspire 5 million tree planters to help carry the mission forward” before the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day in 2022.

According to the Arbor Day Foundation, “Globally, approximately 18 million acres are lost each year — to raging wildfires, insects, disease, climate change, and more. The need for reforestation is dire, and we are committed to revitalizing forests across the country and around the globe — ensuring that they live on to provide life-sustaining benefits for future generations.”

The Arbor Day Foundation encourages Arbor Day participation through community involvement and learning which species grow best where you live – from flowering trees like Redbuds and Crabapples, to classic American trees like Oaks, Birches and Douglas firs.

Regulating Climate

One tree can absorb 48 pounds of carbon dioxide annually, and just one acre of hardwood trees can offset the entire carbon footprint of 18 people. Outside of climate regulation, trees also improve air and water quality and promote both mental and respiratory health.

Researchers at ETH Zurich have calculated “there is enough room on the planet for an additional 1.2 trillion — and that planting them would have huge benefits in terms of absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide, the main driver of climate change,” reports CNN.

“The amount of carbon that we can restore if we plant 1.2 trillion trees, or at least allow those trees to grow, would be way higher than the next best climate change solution,” climate change ecologist Tom Crowther told CNN.

Proper tree pruning is another important consideration for tree health on National Arbor Day. Homeowners in a Charleston, South Carolina neighborhood have been in a battle with utility company South Carolina Electric and Gas to combat aggressive pruning of 100-year-old live oak trees in the historic community of Riverland Terrace. Homeowners have appealed to city and state officials while parking their cars under the trees to prevent utility workers from unsupervised pruning. In one case, utility workers threatened to tow a car.

“I called the police, the sheriff’s office, and someone came out and told them they didn’t have the right to tow my car. It wasn’t parked illegally, and asked me if I can have it moved by morning,” resident Teresa Gill told Live 5 News.

The Arbor Day FoundationProper Pruning tips from the Arbor Day Foundation.

South Carolina Electric and Gas said in a statement that the company had not called to have any cars towed. Gill said that she had no intention of blocking the trees, but that nearby homeowners were trying to protect the trees by parking in front of them. While City of Charleston officials have deferred intervention and state officials have not commented, area homeowners are hoping the utility company will make an exception for the historic trees which are the same species as the nearby Angel Oak tree, considered one of the oldest living organisms in the Southeast.

“We’re hoping that there’ll be some compromise and some of their really stringent regulations that they have of 10 feet and 15 feet from the lines, can be modified,” said Riverland Terrace resident Rena Lasch.

Arbor Day FoundationThe Arbor Day Foundation began in 1972 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first Arbor Day.

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