Arbor Day Foundation Announces 2021 Arbor Day Award Winners


LINCOLN, Nebraska (June 1, 2021) – The Arbor Day Foundation announced the recipients of its 2021 Arbor Day Awards, which annually seeks to recognize five individuals and organizations for their outstanding tree planting and environmental actions.

Since 1972, the Arbor Day Foundation has recognized the inspiring and life-changing work of leading environmental stewards and tree planters through the annual Arbor Day Awards. Award winners from previous years include the late Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, the United States Forest Service and Verizon Communications.

The following are the 2021 award recipients:

Lifetime Stewardship Award: Shannon Ramsay, Trees Forever

The Lifetime Stewardship Award recognizes an individual who has had a positive impact on the environment due to his or her lifelong commitment to tree planting and conservation.

Shannon Ramsay founded Trees Forever in 1989 with the purpose of creating a statewide tree-planting group focused on creating a greener, healthier and more vibrant place for future generations of Iowans. Headquartered in Marion, Iowa, the organization connects people to the land through planting and care of trees, prairie and other natural areas. Under Ramsay’s leadership, Trees Forever has helped to plant more than 3.2 million trees by 257,000 volunteers who dedicated 1.2 million hours of service.

The Trailblazer Award: Sarah Anderson, American Forests

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

Sarah Anderson has played a significant role in equipping urban forestry stakeholders with the resources and knowledge to meet the needs of their communities. She began by working for a national urban forestry network before launching her own consulting firm, Lillie Leaf Solutions, which helped urban greening organizations address equity, accessibility and inclusion in their work. Upon joining American Forests in 2018, Anderson developed its “Tree Equity: Career Pathways” initiative. The program identifies obstacles to employment in the tree care industry and connects people from socioeconomically-disadvantaged communities into formal pre-employment apprenticeship and certification programs to address systemic barriers to entry and retention.

The Headwaters Award: The Nature Conservancy

The Headwaters Award celebrates innovative programs — in rural or urban areas — that support the improvement of water quality and quantity through forestry activities.

The Nature Conservancy’s Mississippi River Basin (MsB) Project aims to build a resilient river basin where people and nature thrive. The program works to restore and conserve the diverse waters, lands, and communities along the river basin that stretches across 31 states. The project was created to help meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s goal of reducing nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River Basin by 20 percent by 2025 that cause dead zones along the river basin. The MsB helps accomplish this by reducing nutrients from flowing into the river and its tributaries in the first place and by slowing the water already in the river to help absorb nutrients rather than flowing down into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Champion of Trees Award: Natural Areas Conservancy

The Champion of Trees Award 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.

The Natural Areas Conservancy is a nonprofit started in 2012 that aims to protect and restore forests and wetlands within New York City parks. In 2018, it partnered with the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation to collaborate and create a Forest Management Framework for the city. This framework included a 25-year comprehensive plan to invest in and take care of the city's forests so that forest management in New York could serve as a model for other cities. 

The Friend of the Forest Award: International Paper

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

As one of the largest and longest-lived forest products companies in the world, sustainability of forests has been a focus of International Paper long before sustainability was a popular concept. Among its many approaches to sustainability, the company follows a certification policy and a responsible fiber procurement policy that addresses responsible fiber procurement and forest and fiber certification practices through recognition of credible third-party standards. 

Spirit of Arbor Day Award: Community Greening

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

Located in Delray Beach, Florida, Community Greening has planted more than 4,000 trees with 3,500 volunteers in parks, schools, neighborhoods, and urban orchards in underserved areas of south Florida with low tree canopy. These results have been accomplished through a variety of tree-planting activities to encourage community engagement, including parks and school planting events; urban orchard beautifications; and tree giveaways for residents.

For more information about the Arbor Day Awards, visit

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