By John Erixson
This Friday, we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day. Here in Nebraska, we’re looking forward to planting more trees and leaving a legacy for future generations. Do you suppose those who started this great movement would have thought it would become a national celebration or an international event?
On a monument recognizing J. Sterling Morton as the founder of Arbor Day, the inscription reads, “Other holidays repose upon the past; Arbor Day proposes for the future.” These words are so true, even today. By planting trees in the present, we have the power to benefit future generations of people across the United States and the world.
Consider the challenges of the past two years and name a better place to regroup and recharge than in our forests and natural areas—you can’t, can you? Trees benefit our physical health and mental well-being. They give us a sense of tranquility and peace, and space to learn and grow. Trees in our communities and on our farms protect us from the winter winds and the summer heat; they clean our air, provide us with plentiful freshwater to drink, and offer us a solution to climate change. Tom Boggus, the former state forester of Texas, often said, “Trees are the answer; now what’s the question?” I couldn’t agree more.
As I walk through Nebraska’s forests, I find myself admiring the strength and the beauty of trees. I cannot help but notice the individual characteristics of each one. I wonder what has happened in the past to make that tree grow in this particular way. I think of the storms the tree endured and the winters that have come and gone as the tree grew taller and more robust. I wonder if someone planted this tree, and if they had, whether they imagined what it would be like today. Perhaps they did; I hope they did.
The essence of Arbor Day is to plant a tree both for your present enjoyment and the benefit of all who will follow. Trees are our silent partners growing alongside us, demanding little while providing so much. This Arbor Day is a special one for all of us. We celebrate 150 years of planting trees, 150 years of stewardship, and 150 years of recognizing the value trees add to our lives.
I hope you will take a moment to plant a tree to protect our environment and honor those forward-thinking tree planters that came before you. May you always find peace and tranquility amongst the trees and in your forest. Happy Arbor Day, everyone.
John Erixson is the Nebraska state forester and chair of the NASF Urban and Community Forestry Committee.