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Arbor Day Foundation Awards Finalists Announced

date 01/15/19

For more information, contact

Jeff Salem, Director of Communications & Public Relations,   email

Leaders in tree planting, conservation and environmental stewardship from around the country and world to be honored through the annual Arbor Day Awards

LINCOLN, Neb., January 15, 2019 – The Arbor Day Foundation has announced finalists for its annual recognition program with the winners to be announced prior to National Arbor Day on April 26, 2019. Since 1972, the Foundation has presented awards for work at the international, national, state and community levels to recognize conservation efforts such as tree planting and care, Arbor Day celebrations, education, community projects and roadside beautification. This year 25 finalists have been identified for six awards including:

The Spirit of Arbor Day award, which recognizes an organization or community that fulfills the Foundation's mission through programs and activities that have been implemented within the past five years.

Ballet in the City, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio:
"Plant a Tree for BIC," an initiative started in 2018, encourages dance volunteers and community ambassadors to plant trees in their home community to reduce the impact of tree loss in urban areas.

City of Kalispell, Montana:
Arbor Day is a big deal in Kalispell, Montana. In 2018, every third-grader participated in a day-long educational event at a city park, while volunteers planted 24 new trees. The city capped the day off with a tree distribution to residents, sponsored by a local brewery.

City of Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board--Forestry Department, Minnesota:
For 40 years, "Elmer the Elm Tree" has spread a positive message about caring for trees, during community Arbor Day celebrations, neighborhood festivals, school carnivals and parades. It is estimated that Elmer's message of tree care has reached over one-half million residents since 1978.

Beyond Housing, St. Louis, Missouri:
Since 1975, Beyond Housing has served to build community, as well as affordable housing, in 24 municipalities in St. Louis County. Their "24-to-1" initiative now includes a professional urban forester to guide urban tree management, enrollment in the Tree City USA program and the celebration of Arbor Day.

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, Grand Rapids, Michigan:
The Urban Forest Project works toward reaching a goal of 40% tree canopy in Grand Rapids through a variety of training programs and educational events, including Kids to Parks Day, BBQ & Beautify, Fall Family Park Fest and Winter West

TreeFolks, Inc., Austin, Texas:
Through two multi-year initiatives in Bastrop and Hays Counties, Texas, TreeFolks has planted more than 2.5 million trees in communities devastated by wildfire and flood, restoring hope to more than 800 families.

The J. Sterling Morton award, which recognizes an individual who has had a positive impact on the environment due to his or her lifelong commitment to tree planting and conservation. The individual will have demonstrated a commitment to advancing tree planting and care through a record of education, work experience, talent and temperament.

Dr. Kathleen Wolf, Seattle, Washington:
Kathy Wolf's research focus at the University of Washington is to better understand how people's perceptions, attitudes, emotions and even their mental and physical wellbeing are influenced by interactions with nature in cities and towns. Her work is nothing short of revolutionary, and thanks to Kathy we now use the phrase 'nearby nature' to help describe the social benefits of urban forests.

Dr. Edward E. Louis, Jr., Omaha, Nebraska:
Using his expertise as a veterinarian and geneticist, Ed Louis has embraced the island of Madagascar's biodiversity and the challenge to conserve it. The programs he developed have helped plant more than 2 million trees, discovered more than two dozen animal species, supported 68 graduate students, employed 166 Malagasy people full-time and 207 part-time and engaged more than 3,000 Malagasy citizens in planting trees and monitoring lemurs.

Jim Rooni, Austin, Texas:
Jim Rooni has spent his 35-year career in forestry with a dedication to community, partnerships and trees. As chief regional forester for the Texas A&M Forest Service in Austin Texas, Jim spearheaded community and landscape restoration efforts following wildfires in Bastrop County and flooding along the Blanco River. He established the Emerging Communities program to address urban expansion into rural landscapes and led the West Texas partnership to restore native populations of ponderosa pine.

The Trailblazer award, which recognizes an individual under the age of 35 who has demonstrated leadership in forestry, community forestry, research or tree care during the past five years.

Tom Ebeling, St. Louis, Missouri:
Tom Ebeling leads community outreach and education for Forest ReLeaf of Missouri, along with management of the organization's volunteer tree nursery. Through his efforts to promote the "Plant MOre Trees" app, Tom is helping Forest ReLeaf and its partners plant and record the locations of 1 million native trees across Missouri by 2020.

Jessica Sanders, Washington, District of Columbia:
Jessica has a passion for the urban forest and leads research at Casey Trees, focusing on enhancing urban forestry practices. Under her tenure, she created citizen-science initiatives to engage the public in tree planting, maintenance and research. Over three years, she has leveraged the time and labor of nearly 500 volunteers to inventory public park and school properties across the District of Columbia.

Lee Mueller, Grand Rapids, Michigan:
Lee brings his experience as a non-profit tree planting coordinator--in cities, large (Detroit) and small (Grand Rapids)--to his new role as an urban forestry consultant for Davey Resource Group. He believes his responsibility is to help communities advance their community tree programs by using his experience and ideas to solve local problems--using trees.

David Moore, Oakland, California:
The title of Senior Tree Supervisor at the City of Oakland, California, belies David Moore's age and accomplishments. During his tenure at New York City Parks, David developed a sophisticated system of tree procurement that is a model for urban foresters across the country, and he served as co-chair of the MillionTreesNYC committee. He also served as president of the New York State Urban Forestry Council from 2015-17, where he was highly regarded for his organizational and leadership skills.

Caroline Coster, Santa Monica, California:
A growing school needs new buildings, and the Santa Monica High School (Samohi) campus is no exception. So, Caroline Coster created a student-run nursery to propagate trees and other nursery plants for adding new shade during each phase of construction over the next 25 years. Her "Branching Out" program engages students in the Samohi Gardening Club to grow the trees from seed and seedling, along with materials and support from Tree People in Los Angeles.

The Headwaters award, which celebrates innovative programs--in rural or urban areas--that support the improvement of water quality and quantity through forestry activities.

Northwest Florida Water Management District, Havana, Florida:
Healthy forests produce clean water, and since 1993 the District has planted more than 15 million longleaf pine seedlings to improve the native forest landscapes within the Ecofina Creek Water Management Area, which provides drinking water for residents of Bay County.

Friends of the Rappahannock, Fredericksburg, Virginia:
The Chesapeake Bay region needs 900 miles of new streamside forest buffers to stay on track to meet pollution reduction goals. The "Headwater Stream Initiative," a partnership led by Friends of the Rappahannock, provides 100% cost sharing for installing buffers in six Virginia counties that make up the Upper Rappahannock River watershed. To date, 500 volunteers have planted more than 7,500 trees on 30 acres of new streamside habitat.

Team Willamette, Portland, Oregon:
This collaborative team of non-profits, state and regional agencies share messaging and resources as members of the Willamette River Initiative. Over the past seven years, Team Willamette has planted more than 3.9 million trees and shrubs for water quality and habitat improvement in the Willamette Basin.

The Champion of Trees award, which recognizes a government entity, community-based organization, or partnership among such groups that has demonstrated exemplary leadership to develop and implement new policies and practices for municipal tree planting and care, natural area stewardship or arboriculture.

Macomb County Dept. of Planning & Economic Development, Mt. Clemens, Michigan:
As one of the most developed areas of Michigan--with the least tree cover--the County Planning Department has established the Green Macomb Urban Forest Partnership to plant trees in communities with low canopy cover, high population density and highly-impacted watersheds. Since 2016, the initiative has fostered networking among 12 communities, conducted ten planting events and planted or distributed 1,400 trees.

City of Charlotte, North Carolina:
Charlotte's Tree Canopy Preservation Program (TCPP) preserves natural areas in the city through voluntary purchases or easements, paid for by fees collected from developers. Since 2014, the city has protected 221 acres, an area three times larger than what would have been protected through traditional tree preservation codes, and acquisitions are targeted rather than left to developer choice.

Tucson Water, Tucson Clean & Beautiful, and the City of Tucson, Arizona:
This partnership is led by Tucson Water with the goal of capturing stormwater at the neighborhood scale to clean runoff before it enters streams and rivers. Trees for Tucson, a program of Tucson Clean & Beautiful, administers the program and enlists neighborhood volunteers to plant and water the trees, many of which are planted in city parks.

Western Reserve Land Conservancy and Holden Forests & Gardens, Cleveland, Ohio:
As active members of the Cleveland Tree Coalition, Western Reserve Land Conservancy joined with Holden Forests and Gardens (HFG) to establish the Sherwick Tree Steward training program to educate residents and community members about the importance of trees, seek input on tree planting sites within their neighborhoods, empower them to plant trees and teach them how to provide ongoing tree care.

South Dakota Resource Conservation & Forestry Division, and the City of Mobridge, South Dakota:
Through South Dakota's first Community Forest Initiative, the City of Mobridge now has the services of a certified arborist to assist with all tree-related issues, from employee training, disease identification and control, to conducting a public tree inventory and writing a long-term Master Tree Plan. At each budget cycle, the city has funded the program, proving the value of the partnership to city leaders. More trees are being planted, the city is once again in the Tree City USA program and was the first South Dakota city to receive a Tree City USA Growth Award.

Village of Hazel Crest, Illinois:
This program of natural area stewardship has transformed a 53-acre tract from a landscape dominated by invasive European buckthorn to a public open space with a diversity of more than 100 species of trees and shrubs. The property is now a focal point for recreation, volunteer engagement and civic pride.

The Friend of the Forest award, which recognizes a corporation and its leaders for their commitment to using trees and forests to achieve corporate sustainability goals and targets.

International Paper, Memphis, Tennessee:
For 110 years, International Paper has based its business model on the sustainability of forests. Not only does the company follow sustainable forestry practices on its timberlands and through its supply chain, but it also leads forest conservation efforts even in countries in which it does not operate.

Verizon Communications, New York, New York:
Employee engagement is central to Verizon's sustainability efforts in the U.S. and in 37 countries around the world. Their "Green Teams" include almost 30,000 employees, who serve as 'green ambassadors' in their home communities. Planting trees is a core activity for these employees, and since 2009, Green Team employees have planted more than 685,000 trees, on target to exceed the company goal of planting 2 million trees by 2030.

More information about the awards and past winners can be found at


About the Arbor Day Foundation
Founded in 1972, the Arbor Day Foundation has grown to become the largest nonprofit membership organization dedicated to planting trees, with more than one million members, supporters, and valued partners. During the last 45 years, more than 250 million Arbor Day Foundation trees have been planted in neighborhoods, communities, cities and forests throughout the world. Our vision is to help others understand and use trees as a solution to many of the global issues we face today, including air quality, water quality, climate change, deforestation, poverty and hunger.

As one of the world's largest operating conservation foundations, the Arbor Day Foundation, through its members, partners and programs, educates and engages stakeholders and communities across the globe to involve themselves in its mission of planting, nurturing and celebrating trees. More information is available at

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