All About Arbor Day

Olive Tree

Happy Arbor Day! Often overshadowed by the more celebrated Earth Day, Arbor Day’s history dates back to the 19th century and it has continued to grow since its inception.

Sterling Morton created Arbor Day in the US in Nebraska City, Nebraska in 1854. Morton moved to the area from Detroit to satisfy his love of nature, and would become editor of Nebraska’s first newspaper, a position he used to promote his love of all things natural. A man ahead of his time, Morton encouraged people to take care of the environment and proposed a designated day to plant trees. In 1872 the State Board of Agriculture accepted his resolution and declared April 10 the first ever Arbor Day.

By 1920, more than 45 states had adopted Arbor Day and today all 50 US states and a number of countries around the world celebrate Arbor Day or some version dedicated to trees. In the US, Arbor Day has officially been recognized as the last Friday in April, although some areas celebrate it at the most appropriate time for planting.

Arbor Day is a unique holiday, much like Earth Day, in that it is focused on celebrating what can be, as opposed to what has been. As the Arbor Day Foundation says, “Most holidays celebrate something that has already happened. Arbor Day reflects a hope for the future. The trees planted on Arbor Day show a concern for future generations. The simple act of planting a tree represents a belief that the tree will grow and, some day, provide wood products, wildlife habitat, erosion control, shelter from the wind and sun, beauty, and inspiration.”

Morton, the founder of Arbor Day, explained its importance best, though: “Each generation takes the earth as trustees. We ought to bequeath to posterity as many forests and orchards as we have consumed.”

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