In 1854 a journalist named Julius Sterling Morton moved from Detroit, Michigan, a city with plenty of trees, to Nebraska, a state with few trees at the time. Mr. Morton and his wife were lovers of nature and particularly trees. They felt that Nebraska needed more trees for beautification, to serve as windbreaks to keep soil in place, to use for fuel and building materials, and for much needed shade. The Morton's gave inspiration to fellow Nebraskans by planting orchards, shade trees, and windbreaks on their own farm, as well as through articles Mr. Morton published in Nebraska's newspaper.
Later, Morton became the Secretary of the Nebraska Territory. While serving in this position he proposed a day for the planting of trees and to increase awareness of the importance of trees. Thus the first Nebraskan Arbor day was born on April 10, 1872. It was estimated that on that day more than one million trees were planted in Nebraska. In 1885 Arbor Day was named a legal holiday and moved to April 22 in honor of J. Sterling Morton's birthday.
In the 1870's other states passed legislation to observe Arbor Day. One hundred years later, in 1970, President Richard Nixon proclaimed the last Friday in April as National Arbor Day. Arbor Day is now observed all across the nation as well as in many nations around the world, although other nations call it by different names.
So how can we as individuals and families celebrate Arbor Day? Well, here are a few ideas:
- Check out the trees on your property for broken branches, disease or insect infestation and take measures to fix the problem.
- Take a trip to your local nursery to see what's available and get ideas.
- Read a book about trees. Learn to identify trees in your yard and neighborhood.
- Enjoy the outdoors. Visit a local park or go on a nature hike.
- Attend a class on tree and plant care.
- If you're feeling young and ambitious try to climb a tree, or enjoy a picnic under a shade tree.
- Or, how about - Plant a tree!