25 April 2008

another earth holiday: arbor day.

another day to celebrate this lovely earth we inhabit: arbor day!

celebrated in the united states on the last friday of april, arbor day has roots dating back to nebraska in 1872. it was established by j. sterling morton.

accompanied by his wife, morton moved to the nebraska territory in 1854 (nebraska didn't become a state until 1867). jumping right into the heart of it all, morton became the editor of nebraska's first newspaper which opened doors for him to become involved in politics and promote the settlement of nebraska.

at the time, nebraska, being in the heartland of the great plains, was barren of trees. while the tallgrass prairie was ideal for farmland, wood wasn't readily available for building houses or even for fuel to heat those houses thus stalling the settlement. even the homestead act with its free offers of land didn't entice families to migrate toward nebraska.

at a meeting of the nebraska state board of agriculture in 1872, morton, a plant lover himself, proposed a tree planting holiday, what we now know to be arbor day. upon this day, counties and individuals were coaxed by the promise of prizes to whomever properly planted the largest number of trees. history shows that more than 1 million trees were planted in nebraska on that april 10, 1874.

the nebraska state tree is the cottonwood, pictured above.

morton's home in nebraska city is now recognized as a state historical park, arbor lodge. it includes an arboretum and extensive landscaped grounds. the national arbor day foundation now runs morton's farm, appropriately called arbor day farm.

at my elementary school, it was customary for second-grade students to go home with a tree and plant it. my tree was a sweetgum and stands proud next to my older brother's sweetgum in the backyard of our old house.

so if you have the chance, plant a tree today. if you join the arbor day foundation, they'll give you 10 free trees! or sign up for paperless billing with your wireless provider or credit card company, which might be more practical, and save a tree.

live simply. take action.

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