Journalist Julius Sterling Morton founded Arbor Day in 1872 in Nebraska, when an estimated one million trees were planted around the state. By 1885, Arbor Day was recognized as a legal holiday in his home state. Nebraska celebrated its first official Arbor Day with a grand parade and thousands of students planting trees. Within a few years, other states and schools joined the celebrations. The date for observance was set for April 22, Morton’s birthday; but it is now celebrated the last Friday of April in most of the country.
The purpose of Arbor Day has always been simple: planting more trees in our communities. Planting trees protects and strengthens our environment by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, creating a more sustainable world for tomorrow.
And depending on your state and local social distancing guidelines, many of us can still safely plant a tree today or over the weekend. In fact, it is generally a good idea to plant trees much more than six feet apart anyway—depending on the species, perhaps even 100 feet or more—as they need their space to grow.
So, why is an energy organization like CRES concerned with a holiday focused on planting trees? Well, one of our founding principles is that a clean environment and a growing economy are not mutually exclusive, so we broadly believe advocating for good stewardship and conservation is essential, and our country’s trees and forests are an important part of that.
But this year trees are especially on our mind because the Trillion Trees Act is a key component of the GOP plan for energy and environmental leadership, which was unveiled in March by House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).
H.R. 5859, the Trillion Trees Act, was introduced by U.S. Representative Bruce Westerman (R-AR) to do exactly what its name suggests: help plant one trillion trees around the globe by 2050. The act includes plans for reforestation in urban and agricultural areas in the U.S. and offers support for other countries in their reforestation efforts. It directs resources towards forest management and utilizing wood products, which store carbon even after the tree is cut down. As Rep. Westerman noted, “Trees are the ultimate carbon sequestration device.”
“Congressman Westerman has given the Congress a unique opportunity to take a needed, pragmatic step to reduce carbon emissions on federal lands. Passage of the Trillion Trees Act will provide the nation with aggressive, sustainable forest management goals that will benefit the country and the world for generations to come,” said CRES Executive Director Heather Reams. “In addition, the provisions of the bill that would elevate the use of carbon neutral forest bioenergy through new policies for using forest biomass will encourage private investment and growth throughout that important supply chain.”
What better way to celebrate Arbor Day than by planting the first of a trillion trees! If stay-at-home orders prevent you from planting a tree yourself today, don’t worry; those who are unable to plant a tree are instead sharing photographs of their favorite trees on social media (#ArborDayAtHome), and if you tag @arborday, the Arbor Day Foundation will even plant a tree for you for free. And in honor of Arbor Day, use today as a reason to contact your representative in Congress and ask them to support the Trillion Trees Act.