National Arbor Day Foundation to Honor Recipients of Arbor Day Awards

NEBRASKA CITY, Neb. -- The National Arbor Day Foundation will honor leaders in tree planting and environmental stewardship at the 32nd annual Arbor Day Awards banquet held on Saturday, May 1. The awards ceremony is part of the celebration held each year in Nebraska City, the birthplace of Arbor Day, to commemorate National Arbor Day.

Award winners are recognized for their leadership in the cause of tree planting, conservation, and environmental stewardship. The 2004 National Arbor Day Award honorees are:

-- Dr. Wangari Maathai, Nairobi, Kenya, winner of the J. Sterling Morton Award. The Morton Award is the Foundation's highest individual honor, given for exemplary work at the national or international level. Dr. Maathai is a member of Kenyan Parliament and serves as the Deputy Minister for Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife. While a member of Kenya's National Council of Women, she created a grass-roots program to work with women's groups planting trees. Known as the Green Belt Movement, these efforts resulted in planting over 20 million trees in Kenya, and served as model for representatives throughout the African continent. A featured speaker at the United Nations Earth Summit, Dr. Maathai, among her many achievements, was recognized by Time magazine as one of 100 people worldwide making a difference for the environment.

-- Roger Milliken, Spartanburg, S.C., recipient of the Frederick Law Olmsted Award. The award recognizes exemplary tree planting and conservation work at the state or regional level. Since 1958, when he built the Milliken & Company headquarters as a tree-filled campus that is today one of the largest greenspaces in South Carolina, Milliken has modeled important conservation messages. He was instrumental in creating the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, one of the most beautifully landscaped airports in the world, and supports many tree-planting and environmental efforts, including an exemplary recycling and emission and waste reduction program. He is the founder of the Noble Tree Foundation and a major supporter of the Yale School of Forestry.

-- Peter Graske, Oakdale, Minn., one of four recipients of a 2004 Lawrence Enersen Award for outstanding tree planting and conservation work at the community level. Growing seeds he collects at home until seedlings are strong enough to be transplanted, Graske has donated trees to friends, neighbors and city parks. He constructed a protective enclosure to keep deer and rodents away the city's tree farm, and removes trees from construction projects so they can find a second home elsewhere in the community. Graske has attended and distributed trees at every Oakdale Arbor Day Celebration since 1975, and he was honored in 2002 when Oakdale declared that its future celebrations would be known as the Peter Graske Arbor Day Celebration.

-- Gerald K. Miller, Elko, Nev., winner of a 2004 Lawrence Enersen Award in recognition of his efforts to organize, fund and lead tree planting projects as an ongoing challenge. Miller grew up planting trees each spring on family homesteads and continued while in Germany with the Army, planting a tree in every foxhole dug for military exercises. Miller planted 230 trees as part of an Arbor Day celebration in college and has organized plantings ever since. Setting a goal to get 1,000 trees in the ground each year, his recent projects include plantings stretching a half mile along the Humbolt River, alongside a local landfill, in Nevada's oldest cemetery; and creating an arboretum at a local school and a 2-acre memorial project for the Elko Fire Station.

-- Beulah Oswald, Jefferson, La., recognized with the Enersen Award for her volunteer work in Jefferson Parish where she has been a leader in helping transform public greenspaces for more than 15 years. Oswald co-founded the Adopt-a-Parkway program, planting trees along major thorough fares and entrances to Jefferson Parish cities, started a Student Forester Program inspiring children to monitor growth of trees planted on school grounds; and founded a non-profit group, the Jefferson Beautification Fund, which has invested over $1.1 million worth of tree planting, conservation, roadside beautification and education efforts in the community. A certified landscape architect, Oswald is an advocate in her community. She has helped preserve one of the last stands of natural forest in the parish, resulting in a 47-acre public park, and organized 13 years worth of Arbor Day celebrations involving hundreds of middle school students.

-- Mary "Bett" Stroud, Weaverville, N.C., winner of the final Enersen Award for her visionary work in her hometown. Starting in 1989 as a member of the Town Council, Stroud began to notice the decline of the community's trees. One of her first acts was to push the city to become a Tree City USA, which would require a commitment in replanting and caring for existing trees. As Chair of her local Tree Board, she organized Arbor Day Celebrations, planned workshops and seminars, researched and found funding for urban forestry brochures, and planted nearly 700 trees. When she became Mayor of Weaverville, Stroud continued her work as an advocate for planting trees. Her leadership and hard work were rewarded when Weaverville earned its 10th Tree City Growth Award.

-- J. David Bamberger, Johnson City, Texas, one of three recipients of this year's Good Steward Award, which recognizes those who practice stewardship through conservation work on private land. When Bamberger bought the 5,500-acre ranch in 1969, it was overgrazed by livestock and dominated by wild juniper, which had crowded out natural grasses and springs. Making it his goal to show that a damaged environment could be restored, Bamberger removed 3,300 acres of juniper and planted over 20 species of native trees grown from seeds he cared for. The native grasses returned and today there are 14 springs emptying into a nearby creek. The preserve is a model for educational outreach programs throughout the state and is helping to save endangered tree species like the Texas Snowbell and Murray plum trees.

-- Calvert Merriken, Jr., Denton, Md., winner of the second Good Steward Award, bought his first tree farm in 1941 at the age of 13 and today owns 14 tree farms in Maryland and Delaware. Part of the American Tree Farm System for the past 41 years, Merriken has been honored as Tree Farmer of the Year in several state and regional awards programs. Merriken's farms have helped enhance wildlife populations and allowed him to provide seedlings, lumber and other wood products to their communities. Tours frequently visit his properties to explore conservation practices that have resulted in the reforestation of over 2,500 acres of land.

-- The USDA National Conservation Buffer Initiative, Washington, the final recipient of the Good Steward Award. Started in 1997, the initiative was created to encourage farmers, ranchers and landowners to use conservation buffers on their property. It also promotes the USDA as an available resource in helping maintain not only the productivity, but also profitability by use of conservation techniques. Of the 1.5 million miles of buffers installed, nearly 200,000 miles worth of tree buffers such as living snow fences and field windbreaks have been planted. This translates to roughly 20 million trees working to prevent soil erosion, improve water quality while controlling flooding, and protect buildings, roads and livestock.

-- Town Center Improvement District, The Woodlands, Texas, winner of the 2004 Lady Bird Johnson award for exemplary leadership in roadside beautification. With the goal of dressing up the newly expanded Interstate-45 freeway, the Town Center Improvement District (TCID) formed a coalition with city and county officials, the Texas Department of Transportation, local utilities, and over 300 merchants to secure funding totaling $1 million. The beautification plan added native trees and vegetation to enhance the 13-mile corridor and surrounding local businesses. Nearly 12,000 plantings will restore the area's natural beauty in years to come thanks to a drip irrigation system. The TCID has promoted the project as a model for other small communities by distributing the 60-page "Step-By-Step Guide to Highway Beautification."

-- Boulder City Revitalization Project of Nev., winner of one of three 2004 Project Awards in recognition of outstanding collaborative efforts involving tree planting and environmental stewardship. When urban designer and forester Damon Ohlerking came to Boulder City, much of the town saw an investment in their community forest as a waste of effort. Mr. Ohlerking began with drawings showing how public spaces could be improved through design, and several large projects were planned with the help of a few supporters. Ohlerking invited volunteers to help plant trees along a stretch of highway and 250 people turned out to plant 870 trees. One success led to others: the creation of community gardens, landscaping for a new library and Veteran's home, and the restoration of several parks. The combined efforts of residents with the vision and leadership of Ohlerking have transformed the city, creating an oasis in the Mojave Desert.

-- The Outdoor Circle, Honolulu, is considered Hawaii's oldest environmental organization. Founded in 1912 by seven women who sought to improve the aesthetic beauty of the islands. Today, Hawaii isn't known for its barren slopes and dusty plains thanks to nearly one million trees planted by the group. The Outdoor Circle is involved in educating children about trees and the environment, has created new parks, and helped preserve natural sight lines by advocating for limited billboard space and underground wiring. There are 12 branches of the organization on four islands with 3,500 members dedicated to preserving parks, open spaces and the beauty of Hawaii.

-- The Plant a Tree for a Child Program, Isle of Wight, Va., the second initiative receiving a Project Award. The program is modeled after a tradition in Berlin, where a tree is planted along public roads for every child entering school. A project of the Isle of Wight Beautification Committee, the program is a perfect way to honor children, reminding them of their community's support, and enhancing the beauty of the area. About 350 trees are planted each year along roadways as determined by the Virginia Department of Transportation, and each child receives a certificate showing the location of their tree. The Virginia Secretary of Education recognized The Plant a Tree for a Child Program by sharing information with every district in the state in hopes it would serve as a model for other schools.

-- Trees for the Rim Educational Program, Scottsdale, Ariz., winner of one of two 2004 Education Awards in recognition of educational programs that are worthy models for others. Following the 2002 Rodeo-Chediski fire, the largest wildfire in Arizona history, area residents needed more than seedlings to replant their communities. The fire burned more than 8,000 acres of private property, 400 homes and required the evacuation of over 30,000 people. This educational effort recruited master gardeners and volunteers to lead property owners affected by the fire in classes on forest health, erosion control, water quality issues and landscaping to reduce future risk to homes in and around natural forests.

-- Trees for Your Neighborhood, Spokane, Wash., recognized with the second Education Award for a program providing free trees to residents who take on the responsibility of caring for a tree once it's been planted. A project of the Urban Forest Council of Spokane, the program is educating residents and business owners on the importance of city trees, focusing on the absence of trees in low-income neighborhoods. Master Gardeners help plant and provide hands-on instruction for the care of trees donated by local grants and businesses. The program created the 63-page "Adopt a Tree for Your Neighborhood" book, which gives residents information on how to have successful planting efforts in neighborhoods and parks, in addition to selecting, planting and caring for their trees.

-- "Remarkable Trees of the World," winner of a 2004 Media Award, written by Thomas Pakenham of the United Kingdom. Pakenham embarked on a five-year journey of the world's temperate and tropical regions to photograph 60 trees of personality and presence. Most of those included are trees native to the regions where they are found, and some are trees of substantial size or age. With illustrations and engravings incorporated from the 18th century to introduce each section, the book consists of vibrant photographs and narratives chronicling Pakenham's visit to each tree. Pakenham's introduction warns this book "won't help you identify trees, let alone grow them. But I hope it will help you meet some new ones," in hopes his readers "will cry 'Wow' when you stand in their presence."

-- "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Trees" winner of a second Media Award, written by David More and John White of the United Kingdom. Organized by tree species, this collection is considered one of the most comprehensive single volume tree books available. Providing detailed information on more than 1,000 species, the book contains over 2,000 color illustrations of trees and close up details of bark, fruit, nuts and cones, needles and leaves. The volume represents 12 years of work and collaboration on the part of the authors: tree expert John White wrote text and David More devoted ten years to completing the paintings presented in this 800 page book.

-- The Right Tree Right Place Coalition, Kansas City, Mo., recognized with an Advertising & Public Relations Award for its public service announcement campaign. Following a major ice storm that devastated trees in 2002, ten organizations formed a coalition to help educate residents on replanting trees in the proper place. Made up of public and private companies, the coalition received over $100,000 worth of in-kind support to create and promote a web site. Print and electronic media, direct mail and community displays helped direct thousands of visitors to the coalition's web site at

-- An Urban Forestry Awareness & Education Program, Madison, Wis., winner of the final 2004 Advertising & Public Relations Award for efforts resulting in an increased understanding of the importance of trees among Wisconsin's home building industry. Relying on the cooperation of homebuilders and urban forestry professionals, the effort provided media training for local building association members. It also produced a press kit for statewide media containing radio commercials, news releases and ad slicks about the importance of trees in building projects.

-- Kirkwood's 150th Anniversary Celebration: ArborMonth, Kirkwood, Mo., winner of a 2004 Celebration Award for programs that best represent the spirit of the tree planters' holiday. Turning its sesquicentennial into a month-long celebration to honor the historical importance of trees, Kirkwood's Arbor Month featured activities designed to attract and involve residents in the celebration. Events such as the Pioneer Tree campaign sought to identify trees in the community that were at least 150 years old; and Take Root in the City encouraged residents to plant trees during the anniversary. A free film series was held featuring speakers addressing urban forestry issues, and town officials visited schools to talk about the importance of Arbor Day.

-- Morton Arboretum Arbor Day Celebration: The Plant, Lisle, Ill., recognized with this year's second Celebration Award. Drawing nearly 4,000 children annually, the Morton Arboretum puts kids to work on Arbor Day. Themed to make kids feel they're going to a job, the arboretum's program uses hands-on activities to educate children about Arbor Day. Each child 'clocks-in' at the start of their 'shift,' decorates a hard hat, participates in a 'tree-sure hunt for trees of Arbor Day past,' and learns how to make paper and distinguish the parts of a tree. At the end of the day everyone leaves with a sapling to take home and plant.

The National Arbor Day Foundation is a million-member, nonprofit educational organization dedicated to tree planting and environmental stewardship. More information on the Foundation and the Arbor Day Awards is available by calling (402) 474-5655 or by visiting the Foundation's web site,

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