From Nebraska to you and yours: Happy National Arbor Day!

By John Erixson

Happy Arbor Day from all of us here in Nebraska! Did you know that Nebraskans have been celebrating Arbor Day for 149 years? And that Arbor Day started here and grew into the national event we recognize today? Our celebration of trees has even inspired other countries to carve out a day each year to thank forests for all they provide. Looking back at this past year, with all the challenges we’ve faced, I have to say thank goodness for our trees, our native plants, and other natural places.

Recently I was able to spend some time walking in one of Nebraska’s forests; a place I often visit to reflect and refocus. As I walked through the trees, I knew I was tracing the footsteps of my father and his father before him, and the many others who must have traveled the tranquility of this forested path. I found myself reflecting on the inspiration of those who planted and cared for these trees: the stewards that came before me. I asked myself, “Were they thinking of my generation as they planted and cared for these trees so many years ago?” Likely not, I concluded, full knowing whether it was their intention or not, the planting of trees always benefits tomorrow.

Planting trees today is for our kids and our grandkids and those who will follow them. It is our generation looking out for generations to come. It is us leaving this world a better place for them, people we’ll never know.

Trees live silently alongside us, demanding little while providing so much. Today more than ever, forests are a sanctuary for us. We find solace and peace in the rustling leaves as the wind blows through their branches. They protect our homes from the winter winds and the summer heat, clean our air and water, store carbon, and help make our communities safer.

This Arbor Day is a special one for me. This year, Arbor Day is about celebrating the lives of those who came before me, recognizing the effort they all put into making Nebraska a better place and taking a moment to think of those who will follow. This year, I am planting trees to recognize the stewards of the past, trees I will care for for years to come, and that future generations will enjoy.

It is my hope that all of you take a moment to plant a tree this Arbor Day to celebrate the wonders of the trees and forests are all around us, to celebrate the stewards that came before us and honor all who will follow us, to leave them a legacy of a tree for tomorrow, and beyond. Happy Arbor Day everyone! May you find peace and tranquility among trees today.

John Erixson is the Nebraska state forester and chair of the NASF Urban and Community Forestry Committee.