How did Arbor Day become what it is today? Why should we care about trees? Well, Arbor Day was started by one person back in the 1870s over the importance of trees. Trees can help provide oxygen, preserve soil, improve air quality, support wildlife, and conserve water. Over time, this holiday has changed and developed into what it is today.
The celebration of Arbor Day can be traced back to the early 1870s in Nebraska City, Nebraska. A man named Julius Sterling Morton started this movement by writing about the lack of trees in his Nebraska community. A lot of readers agreed with his message about the importance of trees. On January 7, 1872, he proposed a day to reflect on the appreciation of trees to the Nebraska Board of Agriculture. The Board agreed with him and Arbor Day was born.
The first Arbor Day celebration was held on April 10, 1872, in Nebraska City. About 1 million trees were planted that day with the help of the public. Due to the success of this day, it started growing in popularity, and in 1882, Arbor Day became a Nebraska State Holiday. They chose April 22nd to celebrate this holiday due to the ideal weather for planting trees and for Morton’s birthday.
As time went on, more and more states started celebrating this holiday, including Minnesota, which became the fourth state to celebrate it in 1876. Several years later, President Theodore Roosevelt issued an “Arbor Day Proclamation to the School Children of the United States” on April 15, 1907. In 1970, President Richard Nixon recognized Arbor Day and set the national observance to fall on the last Friday in April. This year, Arbor Day will be celebrated on April 29th.
Over the past 20 years, there have been almost a half-million trees planted in or around Rice County through the Rice Soil & Water Conservation District’s Tree Sale Program. The number of trees planted is even greater with the addition of trees planted from private and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) nurseries.
In a couple of weeks, this tradition will continue when Rice County landowners travel to the conservation building at the Rice County Fairground to pick up trees to plant. This year the District sold 18,000 trees through the tree program.
There are a lot of benefits of planting trees in various landscapes. People plant trees for shade, wildlife, decoration, or protection. As trees grow, their canopy spreads, which provides more shade to help keep things cooler.
Trees provide shelter and food for wildlife. Wildlife will eat the bark, buds, saplings, and fruit of the trees. Some animals will make their homes in or on trees, or use them as protection against the elements. With the wide variety of tree species available today, people will plant trees specific to what they want. In conservation, many people plant trees for shelterbelts, windbreaks, wildlife, and to help with soil erosion.
What will you be doing on Arbor Day? Many communities host celebrations during this time, so look in yours to see what is going on. In Faribault, the Rice County Master Gardeners will be handing out free bareroot tree seedlings this Arbor Day (April 29th) to residents at the Rice County Fairgrounds from 3:30 – 5:30 pm under the carport.
If you are looking to plant trees, install a windbreak, or want to create woodland habitat for wildlife or birds, please contact the Rice SWCD office for assistance with planning and implementation at 507-332-5408. For more information about tree conservation practices and programs visit our website at www.riceswcd.org/trees. Plant a tree today and enjoy it for a lifetime!
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