Arbor Day had its beginnings in an area not typically associated with trees or forests — the Great Plains.
J. Sterling Morton (1832-1902) and his wife, Caroline Joy French, moved in 1854 from Michigan to the newly formed Nebraska Territory, a vast, open prairie devoid of trees.
He endeavored to encourage tree-planting to improve the environment and beautify the landscape to attract settlers to the area, which became a state in 1867.
On April 10, 1872, his idea to set aside a day for planting and calling attention to trees became the first Arbor Day, when it is said that Nebraskans planted one million trees.
The birthplace of Arbor Day was Nebraska City, where the Mortons lived. In 1885, Nebraska declared J. Sterling Morton’s birthday, April 22, as Arbor Day.
Eventually, Morton served as U. S. Secretary of Agriculture under Pres. Grover Cleveland from 1893-1897.
(This historical summary is an excerpt from the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Ill., www.mortonarb.org.)
Today, all 50 states, as well as many countries around the world, recognize Arbor Day in some manner. National Arbor Day this year is celebrated on April 24.
The day of its observance varies from state to state, depending on the best time of year to plant trees in each locale.
In the Gorge, the mayor of Hood River, Kate McBride, recently proclaimed April 24 as Arbor Day in Hood River. A local Arbor Day proclamation is one of the requirements of being a Tree City USA, a designation held by Hood River for the past eight years. White Salmon has been designated a Tree City USA for two years.
The first full week in April is designated as Arbor Week. To find out more about Arbor Day history, visit youtu.be/DQOBqhRkKik.
To learn more about the importance of trees and about Oregon forests, explore educational videos developed by the Oregon Forest Resources Institute at www.oregonforests.org/video_gallery.
An interactive website, developed by the Oregon Department of Forestry Urban & Community Forestry Assistance Program and Oregon State University, will take you on a tour of four different forests; watch videos and learn about their beauty, the threats they face and the role you can play in protecting them at www.exploreoregonforests.org/ci.
An Arbor Day Foundation webpage for children and their teachers contains games and activities (educational resources) about trees and their importance to our world at www.arborday.org/kids.
Celebrate Arbor Day this Friday
This Friday is National Arbor Day. First celebrated 1874 in Nebraska, this annual holiday is one holiday that proposes to the future, rather than reposing on the past.
Interested in more information on trees, visit ArborDay.org or Treesaregood.org. Happy Arbor Day!