Arbor Day 2012: A Celebration of Trees and Concern for Forests

by Duane Nichols on April 26, 2012

Friday, April 27th 2012 is Arbor Day in the U.S. The national and international celebration started many years ago. In fact, Arbor Day had already been celebrated for over 100 years by the time Earth Day came around, and it all began with a journalist, as described by the Huffington Post.

According to the Arbor Day Foundation, in 1854, pioneer J. Sterling Morton moved to Nebraska from Detroit, Michigan. Saddened by the lack of greenery around him, he advocated for the restoration and preservation of trees through his column in the Nebraska City News. Morton educated his readers on the importance of trees for soil, shade, and as fuel and energy. He suggested the need to actively plant and conserve. Through his strong following, he became secretary of Nebraska Territory, Governor of Nebraska, and eventually the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. Morton became a crusader of forestry, and on April 10, 1872, the first Arbor Day took place in Nebraska. It was a major success, with a reported one million trees planted. Arbor Day became a legal holiday in 1885.

The United States Forest Service is an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture that administers the nation’s 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands, which encompass 193 million acres (780,000 km2). Major divisions of the agency include the National Forest System, State and Private Forestry, and the Research and Development branch. The mission of the Forest Service is “To sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.” Its motto is “Caring for the land and serving people.” As the lead Federal agency in natural resource conservation, the US Forest Service provides leadership in the protection, management, and use of the Nation’s forest, rangeland, and aquatic ecosystems.

US federal agencies had a meeting in Tijeras NM on April 26th preparing for fire season.  The chief of the U.S. Forest Service says he expects this year’s fire season to be just as active as last year, when historic fires charred hundreds of square miles in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and elsewhere. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said the Southwest continues to be dry but the middle part of the country could be in for a more severe season this year. Federal scientists are monitoring weather patterns and trying to make accurate predictions so resources can be placed in the areas where they’ll be needed most.  In Thursday’s meeting were Tidwell, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and other officials to address the nation’s preparedness.

Wastewater from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations poses a serious threat to national forests, according to a researcher from the U.S. Forest Service. Mary Beth Adams conducted a two year study of soil and vegetation health in West Virginia after more than 75,000 gallons of fracking wastewater were applied to a portion of forest set aside for research. The study, appearing in the July-August 2011 issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Environmental Quality, tracks the effects of fracking wastewater on a quarter-acre section of the Fernow Experimental Forest in the Monongahela National Forest. Adams monitored the effects of the land application over a two-year period.

Great concern exists within the US government over drilling permits in National Forests. This particularly applies to the Allegheny National Forest as the Forest Service grapples with environmental concerns caused by the approximately 12,000 wells already operating in Pennsylvania’s only national forest, located in Elk, Forest, McKean and Warren counties, 100 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. Some legal questions over surface rights versus mineral rights are being addressed.


Alfred Joyce Kilmer (1886–1918) wrote the poem Trees in 1913.  A sergeant in the 165th U.S. Infantry Regiment (better known as ‘The Fighting 69th), Kilmer was killed at the Second Battle of the Marne in 1918 at the age of 31.

Trees (1913)

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

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