Conservation Station: Is Long-Time Tradition of Arbor Day Losing its Leaves?

By Stacy Martin on April 30, 2012 from Conservation Station via

My last blog post was focused on Earth Day.  I was extremely happy to hear about all the Earth Day activities organized around our community:  local schools, clubs, and businesses organized litter pick-ups in various locations; St. Mary’s Tiger Scouts made musical instruments out of recycled materials; Bridgeport United Methodist Church preschool classes did a whole week of Earth Day projects; and the The West Virginia Divsion of Highways held its annual Statewide Spring Clean-up, giving reusable bags to all its volunteers. These are just a few of the ideas shared with me on recognizing Earth Day. 
So did you know Friday, April 27 was ARBOR DAY?  I’m sure most of you didn’t and it certainly came and went without much attention.
Although Earth Day has been around since before I started school, I remember only Arbor Day being recognized at my school. We would learn all about the importance of trees to the environment, do crafts or science projects involving trees, and we were generally given a sapling (a small tree) to take home to plant.
So why is Arbor Day seemingly less recognized now? With the ever growing population and development of more and more property, trees are becoming even more vital to the health of communities and the environment. This prompted me to do a little digging (pun intended) to try to find an answer.  Here is the “dirt” I unearthed: 
“Arbor Day is a holiday in which individuals and groups are encouraged to plant and care for trees.” (Wikipedia is my source for information for this entire paragraph). Arbor Day was originated in Nebraska by J. Sterling Morton, and the first Arbor Day was held on April 1, 1872. In 1883 Arbor Day became global and today most countries have a similar holiday as Arbor Day – generally held in the springtime with varying dates based on the climate and planting season. However, in 1997, the start of a lawsuit began to turn the tides on Arbor Day’s popularity.
 A man, J. David Wright, filed a lawsuit against a Nebraska non-profit organization founded for strongly promoting Arbor Day called the “National Arbor Day Foundation.” In short, Wright argued the organization used the “name of the holiday and commercialized it for its own use as a trademark for their publication Arbor Day.  The case went to the United States federal district court and was ultimately settled in 1999. As a result, today anyone can use the term “Arbor Day” and/or hold an Arbor Day celebration.
So back to my question as to why Arbor Day seems to have gone by the wayside, I have concluded there are three (3) contributing factors.
First, the now more popular Earth Day somewhat encompasses the intentions of Arbor Day and most people like to promote their actions during the more popular Earth Day instead. Second, The Arbor Day Foundation being involved in a lawsuit has a negative impact on people – let’s face it, a lawsuit brings bad publicity to anything and most people only remember the lawsuit and not the facts or the outcome whether it's good or bad. And third, when a term like “Arbor Day” loses its parameters on when and how it can be used the meaning behind it also seems to get lost.
Whatever the real reason Arbor Day came and went quietly, I hope its message does not get lost – TREES ARE VITAL TO OUR ENVIRONMENT. We all know this fact, but do we really know why? Here are the top 10 reasons given by Steve Nix, who writes the Forestry Guide for
1.         Trees Produce Oxygen                       
2.         Trees Clean the Soil
3.         Trees Control Noise Pollution
4.         Trees Slow Storm Water Runoff
5.         Trees are Carbon Sinks
6.         Trees Clean the Air
7.         Trees Shade and Cool
8.         Trees Act as Windbreakers
9.         Trees Fight Soil Erosion
10.       Trees Increase Property Values
With such great benefits for the environment of the Bridgeport community, I hope everyone will honor an old tradition and PLANT A TREE or CARE FOR A TREE IN NEED! And if you have kids, have them help and talk to them about all the reasons trees are so important. As with any long standing beneficial tradition, I would hate to see it die off with the passing of years and new generations. So please do your part to make sure Arbor Day does not blow away with the wind!

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