By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
The Arbor Day Foundation has recently honored Oklahoma City University with the 2014 Tree Campus USA recognition for its commitment to effective urban forest management.
Created in 2008 by the Arbor Day Foundation and sponsored by Toyota, Tree Campus USA is a national program that recognizes colleges and universities for effective campus forest management and for engaging staff and students in conservation goals.
By meeting the Tree Campus USA’s five standards, OCU was able to achieve this honor.
The standards include maintaining a tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for its campus tree program, an Arbor Day observance and student service-learning project.
“Students are eager to volunteer in their communities and become better stewards of the environment,” said Matt Harris, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation.
“Participating in Tree Campus USA sets a fine example for other colleges and universities, while helping to create a healthier planet for us all.”
Arbor Day is an annual observance dedicated to pubic tree planting and care.
For many years, Arbor Day was designated on April 22, the birthday of its founder, J. Sterling Morton, one of the nation’s environmental visionaries.
Today, National Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday in April. All fifty states, Puerto Rico, and some U.S. territories have passed legislation adopting Arbor Day, which is celebrated on a date appropriate for tree planting in their region.
In Oklahoma Arbor Day is celebrated the last full week in March.
“Toyota is so proud to support a program that we believe has a great impact on both reducing the environmental footprint of a college campus and inspiring college students to become conservation leaders,” said Latrondra Newton, chief corporate social responsibility officer for Toyota Motor North America, Inc.
Toyota partners with philanthropic organizations across the country focusing on education, safety and the environment.
Together the Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota have helped campuses throughout America plant thousands of trees.
Last year alone, Tree Campus USA colleges and universities invested more than $29 million in campus forest management.
“Trees help improve everything from personal health and quality of living, to boosting economic growth opportunities for private homes, local business and business districts.” said Mark Bays, Urban Forestry Coordinator for Oklahoma Forestry Services.
“They help solve tough environmental problems commonly found in communities. The bottom line is healthy trees translate into healthy communities.”
With nearly 80 percent of all Americans living in densely populated areas, trees can benefit public health and economy. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture the net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.
“It is important to remember that we need to continue to replace those trees that we’ve lost due to the heat, drought and fires, because of all the values and benefits that they provide for us,” Bays added.
Arbor Day Foundation is a million member nonprofit conservation and education organization that inspires people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees.
Today Oklahoma has over 13,700 active Arbor Day Foundation members who have planted more than 135,000 trees across the state.
To learn more about the program visit arborday.org/TreeCampusUSA.