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Arbor Day Award Categories

Award winners are selected for six different categories.

Trailblazer Award

This award 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. The Award winner will exhibit a collaborative spirit that inspires others to give their time, effort, and resources to improve our understanding of trees, tree planting, or tree care.


Individuals younger than 35 years of age.


The award winner:
  • Established a work or personal history over the past five years (or more) that shows outstanding personal commitment to tree planting and care.
  • Mobilizes others to plant and care for trees and serves as a role model to others.
  • Made extraordinary contributions to tree planting, landscape design, conservation, education, or research.

Champion of Trees Award

This 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.


  • Municipal governments (e.g., City of Lincoln, NE).
  • Utility service providers (water, electric, gas, internet, cable, etc.).
  • Nongovernmental community service organizations (e.g., Trees for Lincoln).
  • Partnerships that include up to three of the above entities.
  • Program improvements must have been implemented within the past five years.


The award winner:
  • Established new policies or programs that foster sustainable forests and/or sustainable community forestry programs.
  • Developed a model program for other communities or organizations.
  • Engages diverse partners, operates on a municipality-wide scale, and fosters positive behavior changes among citizens or tree workers.
  • Includes a monitoring component that measures the results of their work.

Lifetime Stewardship Award

This 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. The individual will have demonstrated a commitment to advancing tree planting and care through a record of education, work experience, talent, and temperament. The award winner will have made significant contributions to tree planting, canopy improvement, conservation, education, research, or organizational leadership over his or her lifetime or professional career.


Those eligible include individuals with a longstanding dedication to trees. This is a lifetime achievement award.


The award winner:
  • Demonstrates outstanding commitment over his or her career or lifetime to tree planting and care for the betterment of the environment.
  • Is a respected leader, recognized as a model of integrity and collaboration as he or she mobilizes others in tree planting and care.
  • Inspires others to engage in careers in tree planting, arboriculture, urban planning, landscape architecture, conservation education, horticulture, research, or community service.

Spirit of Arbor Day Award

Arbor Day was established in 1872 as a holiday of inspiration. A day for citizens to imagine and design a future that includes trees — and to take action to make that future a reality. A century later, the Arbor Day Foundation was established, with the mission to inspire people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees.

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.


  • Nongovernmental organizations (e.g., Nebraska Statewide Arboretum).
  • Government entities (e.g., Nebraska Forest Service, City of Lincoln Parks Dept.).
  • Communities (e.g., City of Lincoln, NE).


The award winner:
  • Demonstrated effective methods to engage tree planters, tree stewards, or tree advocates through programs, communication strategies, or partnerships.
  • Displayed or communicated to others the value and importance of trees.
  • Recognized by others as the inspiration for their action to plant, nurture, or celebrate trees.

Friend of the Forest Award

Corporate sustainability efforts have long focused on reducing energy usage, water consumption, or waste streams from production facilities. But forward-looking global companies now look to tree planting — and the long-term stream of benefits from trees and forests — as another pillar of their sustainability programs.

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


For-profit corporations and businesses.


The award winner:
  • Established innovative programs using trees and nature as solutions to institutional challenges such as water usage, energy conservation, waste reduction, or supply chain sustainability.
  • Demonstrated efforts to engage employees in tree planting activities to encourage environmental stewardship.
  • Created models that can be replicated by other organizations, advancing corporate sustainability interests and forestry practices worldwide.

Headwaters Award

The role of healthy forests in producing clean water for wildlife, agriculture, industry, and people is well-known. From snow-packed mountains to farmstead buffers to urban neighborhoods, trees and forests filter runoff and remove sediment and pollutants to benefit our environment.

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


  • Government entities (e.g., Lower Platte South Natural Resource District.).
  • Nongovernmental organizations (e.g., The Conservation Fund).
  • Communities (e.g., City of Denver, CO).


The award winner:
  • Developed sustainable programs to improve water quality or quantity in urban or rural areas that can be used as models for others.
  • Engages a diverse group of partners in their work.
  • Operates their program on a significant scale, with measurable results.

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