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Arbor Day Foundation Timeline

  • Picture of people at a vintage Arbor Day celebration

    1872

    The first Arbor Day is held in Nebraska City, Nebraska, through the efforts of J. Sterling Morton. An estimated 1 million trees were planted in Nebraska during the first Arbor Day.
  • 1972

    The Arbor Day Foundation is formed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Arbor Day and to carry on the mission of the tree planters’ holiday.
  • 1976

    Tree City USA begins, with 42 communities in 15 states honored. Today, more than 3,300 cities and towns are honored as Tree City USA communities.
  • 1977

    The Arbor Day Foundation offers a membership opportunity for the first time. Today, the Foundation has nearly 1 million members from around the world.
  • 1989

    The Trees for America program kicks off with a visible public service campaign featuring John Denver.
  • 1990

    The Arbor Day Foundation begins working with the U.S. Forest Service to plant trees in America’s national forests in need of reforestation. Since 1990, the Foundation, through the generous donations of its members and corporate partners, has helped plant 50 million trees in national, state, and county public forests.
  • 1992

    The Rain Forest Rescue program is formed to save valuable land in South and Central America. So far, more than 50,000 acres of rain forest land have been preserved.
  • 1993

    Lied Lodge & Conference Center opens at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, which is owned and operated by the Arbor Day Foundation.
  • 2001

    The Arbor Day Foundation encourages people to vote for America’s National Tree. With more than 400,000 Americans voting, the winner was the oak tree.
  • 2005

    The first Nature Explore Classroom is constructed at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City as a demonstration for school and child care educators and administrators.
  • 2006

    Enterprise Rent-A-Car celebrates its 50th anniversary by teaming up with the Arbor Day Foundation to plant 1 million trees in the U.S., Canada, and Europe each year for the next 50 years. Enterprise’s 50-million-tree pledge is the largest ever made to the Foundation.
  • 2008

    The “Exploring Trees Inside and Out” traveling exhibit opens at the Pacific Science Center. The traveling exhibit is part of the Nature Explore program, a collaborative project of the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation.
  • 2008

    Tree Campus USA launches as 29 colleges and universities are recognized for following best tree care practices on campus. Today, more than 250 campuses are recognized.
  • 2010

    The Arbor Day Foundation passed a milestone of planting 20 million trees in 20 years in our national forests through an enduring partnership with the U.S. Forest Service. The Foundation’s first national forest tree planting project was in 1990 in the wake of the Great Yellowstone Fire.
  • 2010

    The Arbor Day Foundation surpassed more than 1 million members, each sharing our mission, caring for our earth, and engaging in good work of deep and lasting value.
  • 2011

    More than 8,000,000 trees were delivered to Arbor Day Foundation members in 2011 for planting in their yards, acreages, and neighborhoods.
  • 2011

    The Foundation launched the Energy-Saving Trees program to conserve energy, reduce peak demand, and lower household electricity bills through strategic tree planting. Homeowners use an innovative online tool to virtually plot the right trees in the right place in their yards. Then the real trees are funded by their local utilities.
  • 2012

    More than 250,000 guests from six continents visited Lied Lodge and Arbor Day Farm throughout the year, where they witnessed conservation in practice at every turn.
  • 2013

    In the wake of devastating tornadoes in Alabama and Joplin, Missouri; hurricane Sandy, which hit New Jersey especially hard; and a 32,000-acre wildfire in Bastrop, Texas, the Arbor Day Foundation accelerated its Community Tree Recovery program to provide new trees to residents to raise their spirits and bring hope and healing to their communities.
  • 2014

    After 42 years as president and chief executive, Arbor Day Foundation founder John Rosenow retired. With 12 years on the Foundation leadership team, Matt Harris was unanimously approved as the new chief executive by the Board of Trustees.
  • 2014

    The Rain Forest Rescue program expanded to the African island nation of Madagascar. Through a partnership with the genetics team at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, the Foundation made a commitment to plant more than 250,000 trees each year to restore critical habitat to endangered wildlife while providing employment to local communities in tree nurseries and on planting crews.
  • 2015

    Owned by the State of Nebraska, Arbor Lodge State Historical Park — including the historic home of J. Sterling Morton — opens under the management of the Arbor Day Foundation. Adjacent to Arbor Day Farm, visitors to the historic Morton mansion and park now enjoy the same service and experience they have come to expect from the Foundation.
  • 2015

    After 22 years, Lied Lodge & Conference Center undergoes a $9 million renovation thanks to support from longtime partner Wyndham Vacation Ownership and other contributing corporate partners and donors.
  • 2015

    The Foundation expands its global reach to work in 16 countries on five continents through reforestation, saving rain forests, and changing the lives of coffee-growing farmers and their communities.
  • 2015

    Through enduring partnerships with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters, the 50 millionth Arbor Day Foundation tree was planted in our nation’s forests to help restore damage from insects, disease, and wildfires.

43 years. 250 million trees planted and distributed for posterity. The future, together, is green and bright.

Download Our History at a Glance


Media Contact

To arrange an interview, or to find out more about the Arbor Day Foundation, members of the media should contact:

call  Danny Cohn at 402-474-5655
email