Most holidays remind us of past events, but Arbor Day, set aside for planting trees, looks to the future. That is truly conservation. Conservation may be defined as the wise use of all our natural resources for the permanent good of all the people. It is a way of living that looks toward tomorrow.
The idea of Arbor Day started Jan. 4, 1872, when J. Sterling Morton, a member of the Nebraska Board of Agriculture, introduced this resolution: “Wednesday, the tenth day of April, 1872, be and the same is hereby especially set apart and consecrated for the planting of trees in the State of Nebraska and the State Board of Agriculture hereby name it Arbor Day and to urge upon the people of the state the vital importance of tree planting.” He forcefully pictured to the people living upon those treeless plains of that state what value, beauty and comfort tree planting would bring. With wide support and publicity, the plan resulted in more than a million trees planted on that first Arbor Day.
In 1855, Morton settled on a quarter section of land and immediately started planting trees. In a few years, he had an orchard of 300 trees. As editor of the Nebraska City News, he wrote on the value and wisdom of tree planting. In 1885, Nebraska had 700,000 acres of trees planted and had been nicknamed “The Tree Planters State.”
Arbor Day gave impetus to the swing of public opinion, from acquiescence in forest destruction toward forest conservation. At first, it was recognized by governments and agricultural groups; however, in 1884 educators recognized its importance and the National Education Association voiced this approval:
“Resolved, that in view of the valuable results of Arbor Day work in the six states where such a day has been observed, alike upon the school and home. This association recommends the general observance of Arbor Day for schools in all states.” The dedication of one day each year to tree planting with fitting ceremonies has grown in popularity. Arbor Day is now observed in every state, the date varying with the region. About half the states have fixed the date; in others, it is set by special proclamation of the governor. In some states, memorial trees and groves are planted on Arbor Day as living memorials to those who have died in the service of our country.
Arbor Day has now spread beyond the United States and is observed in many countries of the world. Celebrate Arbor Day in a personal way by planting a tree yourself. It is an act of optimism and kindness, a labor of love and a commitment to stewardship. Anyone can do it. Start a tree seed in a cup, or a seedling in a pot. If you have no place to set it out later, give it to someone who does, and then watch it grow together. Find a place to plant a seedling or a sapling, or the largest tree you can handle alone.
In Wisconsin the date is set by the governor and the legislature. This year it falls on April 26, so if the snow is gone and the ground thawed, please plant a tree. Familiarity, with trees, breeds respect!
Do you know how trees feel in spring? Relieved!
“Each generation takes the Earth as trustees. We ought to bequeath to posterity as many forests and orchards as we have exhausted and consumed.” (J. Sterling Morton)
One lovely spring evening, William Faulkner invited a woman to come see a beautiful bride in her wedding dress. Driving over back roads, Faulkner turned off into a meadow, where he shut the car’s headlights off and proceeded cautiously into the darkness. At last, he stopped the car, turned to his companion, and announced that the bride was standing before them. He then turned on the headlights…revealing a beautiful apple tree in full blossom.
And a bit of humor and some quotes:
Do you know what day this is?
Over breakfast one morning, a woman said to her husband, “I bet you don’t know what day this is.”
“Of course I do,” he indignantly answered. “How could you think I would forget?” Whereupon he left for the office.
At 10 a.m., the doorbell rang and when the woman opened the door, she was handed a box containing a dozen long-stemmed red roses. At 1 p.m., a foil wrapped, two-pound box of her favorite chocolates arrived. Later, a boutique delivered a designer dress. The woman couldn’t wait for her husband to come home.
“First the flowers, then the chocolate and then the dress!” she exclaimed. “I’ve never had a more wonderful ‘Arbor Day’ in all my life!”
If you listen for the songbirds as they greet the summer sun,
and love the way the wind can make the trees sing just for fun;
if you like to hear the ocean as it drums upon the shore,
and imagine all the whales out there,
and hope they’ll sing some more;
If you think of all the animals, as players in a band,
each with a lovely tune to play, all needed on the land;
And know that as a boy or girl…a woman or a man,
you have a vital role to play…in Mother Nature’s plan.
If you honor every living thing, as a part of nature’s treasure,
you’re in tune with Mother Nature.
So let’s all sing her song together.
Have a Happy Earth Day!
“The best time to plant a tree is ten years ago – the second best time is now.” (Confucius)
“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” (Warren Buffett)
Peter Dring is a retired natural biologist and phenologist who lives in the Land O’ Lakes area. To comment on this story, visit the “Outdoors” section of StarJournalNOW.com.