Trees strengthen the distinctive character of a place and encourage local pride

On behalf of our City of Buckhannon, I’m pleased to again bring greetings as today we celebrate National Arbor Day.  On the heels of Earth Day that we celebrated just this past Monday, April 22, there’s not a week during the year that we’re not more focused on and attentive to our precious environment than this week. 

The very first American Arbor Day was celebrated in Nebraska City, Nebraska on April 10, 1872.  One million trees were planted in Nebraska to commemorate that first Arbor Day.  147 years later, we continue to celebrate National Arbor Day during the last Friday each April.  The person most responsible for the establishment of Arbor Day was Nebraska journalist Julius Sterling Morton, who later became the U.S. Agriculture Secretary under President Grover Cleveland.

Trees are vital to our human survival. As the biggest plants on the planet, they provide us with oxygen, store carbon, stabilize the soil, & give life to the world’s wildlife. They also provide us with the materials for tools & shelter.  Trees stabilize our watersheds & river banks, preventing erosion.  Not only are trees essential for life, but as the longest living species on earth, they give us a link between our past, present, & future.  It’s critical that woodlands, rainforests, & trees in urban settings, such as parks, are preserved & sustainably managed across the world.

The canopies of trees act as a physical filter, trapping dust & absorbing pollutants from the air. Each individual tree removes up to 1.7 kilos of pollutants every year. They also provide shade from solar radiation & reduce noise.

Many species of trees & shrubs possess medicinal properties. The oil from birch bark, for example, has antiseptic properties.  Research shows that within minutes of being surrounded by trees & green space, your blood pressure drops, your heart rate slows, & your stress levels are reduced.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide as they grow & the carbon that they store in their wood helps slow the rate of global warming.  They reduce wind speeds & cool the air as they lose moisture & reflect heat upwards from their leaves. It’s estimated that trees can reduce the temperature in urban areas by up to 7°C.

Trees host complex microhabitats. When young, they offer habitation and food to amazing communities of birds, insects, lichen, & fungi. When ancient, their trunks also provide the hollow cover needed by species such as bats, wood-boring beetles, tawny owls, & woodpeckers.  Did you know that one mature oak can be home to as many as 500 different species?

Trees strengthen the distinctive character of a place and encourage local pride. Urban woodland can be used as an educational resource & to bring groups together for activities like walking and bird-watching. Trees are also invaluable for children to play in & discover their sense of adventure.

People are attracted to live, work and invest in green surroundings. Research shows that average house prices are 5-18% higher when properties are close to mature trees. Companies benefit from a healthier, happier workforce if there are parks & trees nearby.

Joyce Kilmer, American poet & soldier during WWI- he was a man by the way, not a woman, wrote “Trees” in 1913 only five years prior to dying on a battlefield at the age of 31 in France.  Indulge me for a minute as we remember one of the most treasured poems in our nation’s history:

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.”

Twice as recently as 2017, Buckhannon was recognized as the greenest and most sustainable community in all of West Virginia.  Today we celebrate this spring’s planting by our city horticulturist, Rob Barbor and his crew, of dozens of new trees around our Dog Park, our Public Safety Complex, Triangle Park and other places about our town.  Our city will continue to be vigilant in the protection of our environment and to do our part and then some- to help save our planet including through the planting of many more trees.  Thanks for supporting our trees today & every day!

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