150 Years of Arbor Day!
By Jeff Woleslagle
Celebrating 150 Years of Arbor Day
When you think about all that trees do for us and the planet, what could be more fitting than a day devoted to them? The first U.S. Arbor Day was celebrated in Nebraska on April 10, 1872, after being proposed by the secretary of the Nebraska Territory, J. Sterling Morton. By 1920, over 45 U.S. states had started to observe Arbor Day.
This year marks the 150th anniversary since the first one when it is estimated that over a million trees were planted on that single day in Nebraska.
On April 15, 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt issued the “Arbor Day Proclamation to the School Children of the United States,” emphasizing the importance of trees and forestry. In 1972 the Arbor Day Foundation was founded to celebrate and commemorate the 100th anniversary of the holiday. The nonprofit conservation group now distributes over 10 million trees every year.
Interestingly, Arbor Day was almost called Sylvan Day, coming from the Latin word “Silva,” meaning “of the forest” or “woodland.” J. Sterling Morton decided against this name because he wanted to include all types of trees, not just forest trees.
In the US, Arbor Day is often observed on the last Friday in April, though many states celebrate on different dates to line up with the best tree-planting times. For example, some states in the deep south may celebrate in February, while some states in the far north choose to celebrate in May.
The first documented Arbor Day was celebrated in the Spanish village of Mondoñedo in 1594! They celebrated the event by planting lime and horse-chestnut trees.
Today, at least 44 countries worldwide celebrate Arbor Day each year.
The best way to celebrate Arbor Day of course is to plant a tree! The benefits to people, wildlife, and the environment are tremendous.
About the Author
Jeff Woleslagle is a 1992 graduate of Penn State University with a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science. After college he worked on various research projects for the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the University of Montana, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission. He came to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in 1999 and has worked as a park ranger, forest ranger and Environmental Education Specialist prior to becoming the Bureau of Forestry’s Chief of Communications. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association and an active member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Jeff resides in Duncannon, Pennsylvania with his wife Jodi and has two children, Alayna and Nathan. He enjoys hiking, kayaking, reading, hunting and fishing.
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