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Arbor Day Foundation Honors Tree Planters With National Awards

date 04/21/08

For more information, contact

Jeff Salem, Director of Communications & Public Relations,   email

Nebraska City, Neb. (April 21, 2008) – The Arbor Day Foundation will honor tree planters and conservation-minded organizations from across the world whose work has inspired people to celebrate trees at the Arbor Day Awards banquet on Saturday, April 26, the Lied Lodge & Conference Center at Arbor Day Farm.

The Arbor Day Awards recognize and honor the vision and hard work of a select few tree planters and environmental stewards. The 36th annual Arbor Day Awards will be awarded to tree planters who are making a difference in the lives of people around the world.

Dr. Peter Raven, president of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, will receive the J. Sterling Morton Award, the highest individual honor given by the Arbor Day Foundation for exemplary work at the national or international level.

Raven has presided over the Missouri Botanical Garden for more than 36 years, and in that time he has seen the facility grow into a world-class center for botanical research, education, and horticulture display.

During his tenure, the Missouri Botanical Garden has become the leader in botanical research in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and North America. Raven champions research around the world to preserve endangered plants and animals, and he is a leading advocate for building a sustainable environment. In 2001, he received the National Medal of Science, the highest award for scientific accomplishment in the United States.

“Peter Raven’s commitment to preserving trees and the natural world has inspired generations of scientists and conservationists around the world,” said John Rosenow, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “His love of trees, and his desire to preserve and protect thousands of species is making a tremendous impact on the environment.”

The Arbor Day Foundation has granted the Arbor Day Awards since 1972. Past winners include Wangari Maathai, who also won a Nobel Peace Prize; Chicago Mayor Richard Daley; former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall; veteran newsman Bill Kurtis; the Toyota Motor Corporation; and the Walt Disney Company.

In addition to the J. Sterling Morton Award, the Arbor Day Foundation will give out Arbor Day Awards to eight individuals, seven tree-planting organizations and two companies which have demonstrated their commitment to tree planting and conservation. Also receiving an award are:

Jeunesse Park of Johannesburg, South Africa, recipient of the Caroline French Morton Award, which was established to honor the spirit of stewardship of its namesake. Park started Food and Trees for Africa in 1990 to help reverse the severe environmental degradation that had occurred during the years of Apartheid in her native country. Her organization has helped plant more than 300,000 trees in low-income housing settlements, and has handed out more than 2.8 million trees to schools, clinics, nursing homes and parks.

Buck Abbey of Baton Rouge, La., is the recipient of the Frederick Olmsted Award for exemplary tree planting and conservation work at the state or regional level. Abbey is a nationally recognized authority on municipal landscape ordinances and codes, and has been a major influence in working to draft landscape standards for communities across the country that recognize the importance of trees in cities and towns. He serves as an associate professor of landscape architecture at Louisiana State University, where he has worked to create the Green Laws Web site, which provides resources and information on landscape architecture, land use law, tree preservation and landscape legislation. His professional work has exemplified a commitment to tree planting and conservation that has improved communities across America.

Debbie Mendelson of Woodside, Calif., will receive the Lawrence Enersen Award for outstanding tree planting and conservation work at the community level. Mendelson started the Heritage Tree Awards, which identifies and honors trees of historical significance in her community. She also helped craft and for 12 years worked on passing a Tree Preservation Ordinance, which was adopted by Woodside in 2006. Mendelson helped create the Woodside Tree Booklet, which catalogues trees and shrubs suited to the area, and distributes it to residents of Woodside and to contractors who work in the area.

Doubletree Hotels and The Home Depot Foundation are each recipients of the Promise to the Earth Award, which recognizes sustained commitment and leadership by a corporation that joins with the Arbor Day Foundation on special projects.

Doubletree Hotels launched a community outreach initiative in 2002 through the “Teaching Kids to Care” program, which has a mission to teach children about the importance of giving back in their own community. Since 2004, Doubletree has donated tree seedlings to schools, helped schools with special tree-planting events, provided opportunities for children to plant seedlings, and helped plant nearly 70,000 trees in America’s national forests. This year, Doubletree sponsored the production and launch of the new Nature Explore Traveling Exhibit, called “Exploring Nature Inside and Out.” Because of Doubletree’s generous contribution, thousands of children during the next three years will learn about the importance of nature.

The Home Depot Foundation is dedicated to creating healthy, livable communities through the integration of affordable housing built responsibly, and the preservation of community trees. In 2007 alone, the Foundation planted or restored more than 310,000 community trees and donated more than 530,000 hours of volunteer service by its employees. The Home Depot Foundation has teamed up with the Arbor Day Foundation for 36 tree-planting events since 2006 throughout the country aimed at improving the health of community forests and creating inspiring experiences for thousands of children and adult volunteers.

Green Streets for Omaha, Neb., will receive the Lady Bird Johnson Award for roadside beautification. Green Streets for Omaha is a master plan that establishes design and landscape standards that green the city’s 2,000 miles of streets. Sponsored by the City of Omaha and Mayor Mike Fahey in conjunction with the Department of Parks, Recreation and Public Property, Green Streets for Omaha works to beautify the community’s streets and neighborhoods.

Long Island Nature Collaborative for Kids of Long Island, N.Y., will receive the Rachel Carson Award for providing nature education opportunities for children and families. The Long Island Nature Collaborative for Kids (LINCK) includes architects, early child educators, environmental educators, health professionals and others. Its goal is to educate the community about the importance of making nature part of the daily lives of children, to foster collaboration and support, and to inspire people to create nature-rich leaning environments. LINCK was formed by Dana Friedman as an outcome of the 2006 Working Forum on Nature Education for Children. The work of the group has resulted in creating outdoor classrooms at the Bailey Arboretum in Long Island and the National Headquarters for the Family Place Library Systems in Centereach, N.Y.

Kurt Berger of Sugar Grove, Pa., Johney Haralson of Denmark. S.C., and the Ziolkowski Family of Crazy Horse, S.D., are the recipients of the Good Steward Award. The award honors those who practice stewardship through conservation on private land.

Berger, born in Germany, immigrated to the United States in 1952, dreaming of establishing his own tree farm and creating a legacy for the future. He served in the Air Force, retired in 1979 and purchased a small farm near Sugar Grove, Pa. In 1995, his dream became a reality when he began planting trees on his land. Since then, he has planted more than 2,000 trees, and his farm is enrolled in the American Tree Farm System. Berger is often asked why he spends so much time in his retirement planting and caring for trees, and his response is always the same: “I plant for the future.”

Haralson’s tree farm is a showcase for good forestry practices. He manages the land for tree farming and wildlife habitat, setting aside more than 40 acres of food patches for wildlife. He routinely hosts tours and visitors, teaching others about the importance of trees and being a good steward of the land. He is recognized in South Carolina as a leader and advocate for forestry management and conservation, and was named the 2007 Southern Regional Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year by the American Tree Farm System.

The Ziolkowski Family is best known for the continuing efforts to build the Crazy Horse Memorial to honor the culture, tradition and living heritage of Native Americans. But they also manage the Crazy Horse Memorial Forest, which is South Dakota’s oldest and largest certified woodland tree farm. For 46 years, they have been committed to wise forest and multiple-use management, which includes timber production, wildlife preservation, livestock grazing and recreation. The family welcomes more than one million visitors each year, and was named South Dakota’s Woodland Tree Farmers of the Year in 2007.

The City of Buffalo and Re-Tree Western New York of Buffalo, N.Y., Johnson City Housing Authority of Johnson City, Tenn., Rain to Recreation of Lenexa, Kan., and the USDA Forest Service Living Memorials Project of Newtown Square, Pa., will each receive a Project Award. Project Awards recognize outstanding collaborative efforts involving tree planting and environmental stewardship.

When Buffalo and surrounding communities were hit by a surprise October snowstorm that dumped more than two feet of wet, heavy snow, the City of Buffalo and Re-Tree Western New York responded with quick action, community spirit and a passion for restoring the urban canopy of their city. As a result of the storm, Buffalo lost an estimated 7,400 trees, and an additional 54,500 trees were destroyed in the surrounding region. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown included $1 million in the city’s 2007-08 budget for citywide tree restoration programs, and the City supported the development of Re-Tree Western New York, which recruited many partners in and around the city to help in the recovery efforts. Re-Tree Western New York planted more than 3,000 trees in its initial year, and is working aggressively to meet its goal of planting 30,000 trees by 2012.

In an effort to beautify eight housing sites totaling more than 100 acres, the Johnson City Housing Authority planted more than 550 trees in a joint effort with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. The housing authority worked with residents to find locations for the trees and solicited their help in planting and after care to ensure the long-term success of the project. The new trees beautified the developments, decreased energy costs, and have given the residents a new sense of pride in their community.

The Rain to Recreation Project was started as an innovative way to manage growing storm water issues and flooding problems in the community. The City of Lenexa determined that a “green-centered” approach would address their needs in an environmentally sensitive way. The city stabilized stream banks and managed storm water flow using natural restoration methods that included the planting of trees, grasses and wildflowers. As a result, citizens enjoy the new 35-acre lake that was created, the 240 acres of parkland that was developed and the three miles of recreational trails that were installed. The project also preserved hundreds of acres of forest land and the creation of wetlands for wildlife habitat.

The USDA Forest Service, at the bequest of the United States Congress, created the Living Memorials Project to honor the losses of September 11, 2001. This initiative invoked the resonating power of trees to bring people together and create lasting, living memorials to the victims of terrorism, their families, communities and nation. To date, more than 600 sites for Living Memorials in all 50 states as well as the United Kingdom, France, Japan and Australia have been recorded by the Forest Service.

The Forest Where Ashley Lives, by Mark & Ashley Vitosh of Ames, Iowa, will be presented with an Education Award. Education Awards recognize model programs throughout the United States and the world. The Forest Where Ashley Lives is a story about a 7-year-old girl whose father works as the town forester. The book teaches children about urban forests and the foresters who care for trees. Numerous facts throughout the book teach readers about the importance of city trees, and illustrate the difference between different types of trees.

If I Were a Tree, by Dar Hosta of Flemington, N.J., will receive a Media Award, which is given in recognition of the power of the media to capture the imagination of the public. If I Were a Tree is a uniquely shaped book that is a celebration of trees. The book features verse and colorful collage illustrations showing trees through all seasons, and is geared for children ages 3 through 8.

Eastside Elementary School of Clewiston, Fla., is the recipient of a Celebration Award, which goes to the school, community, or state program that best represents the spirit of the tree planters’ holiday. Students and teachers at Eastside came up with a unique way to celebrate Arbor Day by transforming a barren piece of land in front of the school into the Eastside Elementary Pineland. Students and volunteers planted more than 160 trees, and then put on an all-school assembly to honor Arbor Day. Today, the area is used by science and math classes as students study nature and become more aware of the environment.


About the Arbor Day Foundation: The Arbor Day Foundation is a nonprofit education and conservation organization of nearly one million members, with a mission to inspire people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees. More information on the Foundation and its programs can be found at

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