Nebraska City, Neb.--A record 2,560 communities earned Tree City USA designation from The National Arbor Day Foundation during the last fiscal year. These cities and towns of all sizes are located in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam.
Tree City USA began in 1976 as a Bicentennial project, with 42 communities becoming Tree Cities that year. Today, communities in the program range in size from Calvin, North Dakota, population 26, to Los Angeles, California, with more than 3.2 million people.
"One of the strengths of this program is that a town of any size can participate," said John Rosenow, president of the Arbor Day Foundation. "Across the country there's a growing appreciation of the importance of trees and the realization that a good tree-care program is a wise investment in the future of any community."
To become a Tree City USA, a community must have a tree board or department, a community tree ordinance, a comprehensive community forestry program, and an Arbor Day proclamation and observance. Since 1991, the Foundation has also given Growth Awards to communities that have been a Tree City USA for at least two consecutive years and that demonstrate levels of tree care that go beyond the program's basic standards. A record number of Growth Awards was given last year, to 455 cities and towns.
"A growing sense of community pride is one of the most important benefits of being a Tree City USA," said John Spodofora, council president of Stafford Township, Stafford, New Jersey. "Earning this recognition is a celebration and a process, in which residents take ownership and gain a greater understanding of the value of trees." Stafford has been a Tree City for the last ten years, and the recipient of a Growth Award every year since 1991, when the Growth program began.
Donna Curtis, executive director of Shreveport Green, a Keep America Beautiful affiliate in Shreveport, Louisiana, said Tree City recognition has been similarly beneficial for her community. "Earning Tree City USA designation has made it easier to sell our notion of trees as a credible part of a healthy, vital place to live," she said. "Tree City status helps show we're doing the right things in our community forestry program. It's a source of credibility both with the general public and with groups like our city council." Shreveport has been a Tree City since 1991, and a Growth Award winner for the past two years.
Applications for Tree City USA 1999 are due by Dec. 31, 1999. Additional information is available from The National Arbor Day Foundation, 100 Arbor Avenue, Nebraska City, NE 68410. Tree City USA is co-sponsored by the National Association of State Foresters, the USDA-Forest Service, the National League of Cities, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The National Arbor Day Foundation is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to tree planting and environmental stewardship.