As the nation celebrates Arbor Day (April 24), let's reflect on the value of trees, and highlight the important ability of trees to restore hope, bring healing, and lift spirits following natural disasters. Trees are vital to successful, long-term recovery efforts – from a critical conservation recovery perspective, and also when considering the emotional healing and recovery of people and the fabric of a community.
Trees bring hope and healing, raising the spirits of residents who suffered the loss of their cherished trees. Many shared a similar sentiment as that of the good people of Mississippi. When asked why he came for the trees, one resident responded, "So I can bring life back."
Trees serve many purposes. They are very much a part of the fabric of life and of the community. Trees provide both physical and emotional landmarks –marking childhood adventures, romantic walks, and lazy Saturday afternoon picnics, among others. Trees evoke memories and help to establish a sense of place, meaning and belonging. Putting trees into people's hands following loss serves to lift spirits, restore hope, and help to begin the healing process. On this Arbor Day, it is important that we recognize that trees are vital infrastructure just like our roads and our bridges.
Disasters such as wildfires, tornadoes, windstorms and floods wreak havoc upon both our physical and emotional landscapes. The comfort and security – the sense of place provided by our trees – is dramatically altered, and sometimes even erased. New trees bring hope and are part of the holistic recovery of a community following a natural disaster.
After Superstorm Sandy, residents of New Jersey experienced first-hand the hope and healing brought forth by new trees. One said, "More and more communities are engaged. We are on the road to recovering our precious tree canopy, one tree at a time."
The need for an orchestrated disaster response that includes providing new trees to communities in need is today more important than ever due to increased threats of severe storms and wildfires. When natural disasters strike, our partners on the ground, including state foresters across the nation, are poised to respond and ready to provide new trees through the generous support of our caring members and partners. 2015 Community Tree Recovery campaigns are visible across the country in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington. Trees are part of the recovery process. Together, we can continue to bring life back through trees.
In Texas, a local official helped plant new trees to replace trees lost in the devastating 2011 wildfires. He said, "As we plant these trees we're helping people to know that life goes on and things can be restored."
Arbor Day reminds us all to plant, nurture and celebrate trees.
Let's continue to plant trees whose benefits will be enjoyed not only by us, but also by our nation's children and grandchildren.
On this Arbor Day, let's appreciate the trees for their important role in helping to establish a sense of place, meaning and belonging; for serving as both physical and emotional landmarks that define important milestones along life's journey; and for being so seamlessly, intricately woven deeply into the rich fabric of our life and our community.
Please join me and thousands of others as we continue to work directly with our state forestry leaders on the ground to put trees into people's hands following the loss caused by natural disasters, so that we may lift spirits, restore hope, and help to begin the healing process.
Arbor Day Foundation