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Let's Celebrate Arbor Day!

Updated: Apr 19

April is the month when we celebrate Arbor Day. National Arbor Day is always celebrated on the last Friday in April, but many states observe Arbor Day on different dates throughout the year based on the best tree planting times in their area.

J. Sterling Morton, a native Nebraskan whose love of trees was fueled by the relative lack of them on the vast, windswept expanses of the Great Plains, first proposed the holiday in 1872 as a day to plant trees. Unfortunately, in the many years since then, the world has taken down far more trees than it has planted – we have lost 1 billion hectares of forest, an area the size of the continental United States, in the last century and a half. An old Chinese proverb says the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second-best time is now. And that’s because it takes a long time to grow a tree; most trees don’t reach maturity for at least 25 – 35 years. So, let’s start right now to do our part to save the forests and all the wildlife that live in them and plant a tree!

Not included in the many benefits of trees that Morton would have considered back in 1872 – before we were concerned with rising atmospheric CO2 levels – is the fact that the world’s forests store approximately 861 billion tons of carbon through the process of photosynthesis which enables trees to convert CO2 in the atmosphere into the carbon that makes up their trunks, branches, leaves, and root systems. To put that into perspective, consider that over the lifetime of a tree, it absorbs the same amount of CO2 that is emitted by driving a car 1500 miles. Now multiply that by 3 trillion – that’s how many trees exist in forests around the world today. Altogether forests filter 7.6 billion metric tons of CO2 each year. There is no machine that we can build that is as efficient as a tree for clearing CO2 from the atmosphere and a tree has the added benefit of providing us with oxygen as a by-product of its work. Forests also clean water by filtering out pollutants; they stabilize soils and keep them from washing into watersheds; they provide shade and reduce urban heat island effects; and they provide habitat for almost 80% of terrestrial species.

Since the beginning of agriculture over 10,000 years ago, people have been cutting down forests for fuel and to create cropland and grazing land. Fortunately, our per capita forest use has declined significantly in modern times due to a switch from wood to fossil fuels and renewable energy, and increased crop yields. The world’s deforestation rate peaked in the 1980’s and has been declining ever since. So, we are on the right path to save the forests of the world, but we need to do more.

To save the forests, we need to decrease deforestation and degradation and also increase reforestation. The main driver of deforestation is consumption; only 1% of deforestation is due to urban development. The top three products that contribute to deforestation are beef, soy for livestock feed, and palm oil. 95% of the forests that are coming down to provide us with these products are tropical rainforests, the most biodiverse ecosystem in the world. We also use wood products, like lumber and paper products, that come from both rainforests and temperate forests. To slow deforestation, we can:

1.      Choose local grass-fed beef: you can find a retailer from the Colorado Beef Council

2.      Only buy RSPO-certified products when purchasing anything that contains palm oil: use the  Palm Oil Scan app from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo to find Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified rainforest-safe products

3.      Only buy wood products that have been certified by the Forest Steward Council: The FSC was launched in 1993 to provide consumers with the information they need to make good choices for saving forests

4.      Reduce our use of paper products:  Use cloth napkins, reusable shopping bags, e-books, and online documents in place of the equivalent paper product OR buy recycled paper products when you can’t use alternatives. And we need to recycle those paper products when we are finished with them.

5.      Buy shade-grown, bird-friendly coffee and chocolate: 75% of coffee plantations destroy forest habitat that is critical for migratory songbirds. The Smithsonian has created a bird-friendly certification process for growers who want to protect their habitat.

6.      For more ideas to help save the forest, visit the Tree Foundation:

Forests have development cycles, just like all living things. The most valuable forests are the oldest forests, or old-growth forests. These forests are home to an amazingly complex array of biodiversity. Sadly, there are only 5% of our original forests left in the Western United States. Colorado is home to one of these old-growth forests in the San Juan National Forest. You can protect these and other mature forests by following all the rules of Leave No Trace whenever you visit and by never transporting firewood from one forest to another. Moving logs transports harmful insects and pathogens to other healthy ecosystems.

7.      Visit an old-growth forest and adhere to the Leave No Trace Principles when you get there: here is information for taking a trip to one of Colorado’s original forests.

8.      And while you are there, why not try out Forest Bathing to gain a greater appreciation and reverence for these majestic places. Check out some tips from the Cleveland Clinic.

9.      Buy it where you burn it: Never transport firewood. Read about ways to keep pathogens and forest pests in check.

Finally, it is time to plant a tree! The most important tenet for planting a tree is this: Right Tree, Right Place. Remember, that tree is going to be around for a long time, so make sure you do your research. The Arbor Day Foundation has all the information you need to:

10.  Plant a Tree!: Do it right with this excellent guide from

Tree huggers unite and together we will grow a forest for the next generation!

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Steele Nickle
Steele Nickle
May 07

let’s start right now to do our part to save the forests and all the wildlife that live in them and plant a tree! geometry dash subzero

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