Short History of Arbor Day
Julius Sterling Morton was born April 22, 1832 (almost 140 years later, that day would be come Earth Day). Morton was Secretary of Agriculture for the 22nd President of the United States, Grover Clevand. However, his real legacy came from the first Arbor Day he organized in 1872 in Nebraska City, Nebraska. On that day, April 10th, 1872, some one million trees were planted.
In 1972, The National Arbor Day Foundation was founded in an effort "to inspire people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees." The Arbor Day Foundation raises funds from donations and by selling trees to benefit the organization. The programs they run include Tree City USA, Tree Line USA, and Tree Campus USA. Tree Line USA encourages utilities to plant the right trees (PDF) near power lines to hide them and improve the neighborhood. Tree Campus USA is a program geared toward getting colleges and universities to properly manage their trees and continue to plant more. The National Arbor Day Foundation is dedicated to teaching children about the importance of trees and providing volunteer opportunities. They also have an award program to support tree-friendly acts in the community and make efforts to reforest our damaged rainforests.
Santee is a Tree City
Santee has been a tree city for 9 years, which is good because Santee looks a lot like this, with wildfires and a possible , so we can see the benefits of planting more trees. Neighboring city, El Cajon has been one for 14 and La Mesa has been a tree city for an incredible 31 years, Coronado for 26 years, and Carlsbad for 7 years.
You Can Get Involved
It is easy for anyone to get involved in Arbor Day. You can get involved in a local tree planting event or just plant a tree in your yard. If you have kids this is an excellent opportunity for you to teach them about nature, the benefits of hard work, and how to plant a tree correctly; something people often don't know how to do the right way. Planting the right shade tree in the right spot in your yard can lower your cooling bill in the summer.
Conservation is Working
Efforts to replant forests and add trees in urban areas are working. There are counts that there are more trees now then there have been in the last 100 years. But we are nowhere near pre European Arrival. Also, the forests we do have are very young. That means they are not yet the great carbon sinks they have the potential to become, and they are not yet home to a large variety of plants, animals, insects, and fungi like the few remaining old growth forest are. They will get there, though. It is a great thing conservation really took off in the 50s.
Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Homescale Permaculture, often talks about why planting native plants in a suburban backyard is not exactly as environmentally friendly as one might think. The sum of his thesis is, when suburban folk do not plant an edible garden that means somewhere else where there still is a possibility for open space to be preserved, a farm must grow monocultures of non-natives to that area to feed people. Planting natives in your backyard is not going to stop that plant from going extinct nor is it going to bring back wild habitat. But if you were to grow your own food, that means somewhere else, land can be restored instead of being commissioned by you to grow food. [You can watch a short video of him discussing this here, he also left an interesting comment here you can read.] In this area, Mission Trails Regional Park is where we want and shrubs to be planted.
This does not mean planting natives is bad. If you are going to landscape your yard and for some reason don't want edible perennials, natives are your best choice! They are evolved to not need water in the summer months and once established, can more than likely live off rain water (supplemented when rainfall is short).
This Arbor Day, when you go to the local nursery to pick out a tree, look for a fruit or nut tree suitable for your backyard's microclimate. By planting a fruit tree, you can provide yourself with a minimal amount of food, but more than you'll be able to eat by yourself, so you will become popular with your neighbors who will also enjoy trying something you grew in your own yard! Canning and drying the fruit is another way to extend the life of the season's produce.
Arbor Day has been celebrated for 140 years as of 2012. It has had a amazing impact on society and is celebrated in 30 countries and continues to grow every year. As climate change becomes a more serious, more ignored problem every day, we as individuals need to take action whenever we can.