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Tree Campus Higher Education Standards

Your college campus can receive annual Tree Campus Higher Education recognition by meeting five standards. Two- and four-year accredited colleges and universities meeting these standards will receive recognition materials to showcase their dedication to the campus environment.

The standards should be completed, and application submitted, by December 31 to be recognized as a Tree Campus Higher Education college or university for that calendar year.

Standard 1 - Campus Tree Advisory Committee

A Campus Tree Advisory Committee comprised of members representing the diverse audience of those with a stake in campus trees is established and meets regularly.

This committee must include a representative from each of the following audience:

  • Student (undergraduate or graduate).
  • Faculty.
  • Facility Management.
  • Community - for example - city forester, municipal arborist, community tree board member.

Each individual campus may also have other interested student organizations, alumni, faculty, or staff that could be represented such as administration, sustainability coordinator, professor emeritus, etc.

While responsibility of the campus trees often ultimately lies with the campus forester, arborist, landscape architect, or designated facilities department, the Campus Tree Advisory Committee can assist in providing guidance for future planning, approval of a comprehensive campus tree plan, education of the campus population as to the benefits of the campus trees, and development of connectivity to the community.

Standard 2 - Campus Tree Care Plan

A Campus Tree Care Plan should be flexible enough to fit the needs and circumstances of the particular campus. The Tree Care Plan should be goal oriented and provide the opportunity to set good policy and clear guidance for planting, maintaining, and removing trees. It also provides education to the campus community, citizens, contractors, and consultants about the importance of the campus forest and the protection and maintenance of trees as part of the growth and land development process.

A Campus Tree Care Plan must include:

  1. Clearly stated purpose.
  2. Responsible authority/department - who enforces the Campus Tree Care Plan.
  3. Establishment of a Campus Tree Advisory Committee, terms of the representatives, and role committee plays.
  4. Campus tree care policies for planting, landscaping, maintenance and removal including establishing and updating a list of recommended and prohibited species; managing for catastrophic events.
  5. Protection and Preservation policies and procedures - include process for implementing tree protection plan including step-by-step process that every project must follow including construction and trenching.
  6. Goals and Targets - develop at least one goal and target for your Campus Tree Plan. These could include (but are not limited to) tree canopy target, development of a link between the Campus Tree Plan and other green initiatives on campus or in the community; completion of a campus-wide tree inventory, etc. Include how the goal will be measured.
  7. Tree damage assessment - enforcement, penalties, and appeals.
  8. Prohibited practices.
  9. Definitions of terminology related to campus trees.
  10. Communication strategy - how the campus tree care plan will be communicated to the college community and contractors to heighten awareness about policies and procedures as well as the goals of the institution.

Both Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech have great examples of a comprehensive Campus Tree Care Plan. You may download PDFs of their documentation:

  1. Georgia Tech’s Campus Tree Care Plan
  2. Virginia Tech’s Campus Tree Care Plan

Standard 3 - Campus Tree Program with Dedicated Annual Expenditures

A college campus, to be designated a Tree Campus Higher Education campus, must allocate finances for its annual campus tree program. Evidence should be shown that an annual work plan has been established and expenditures dedicated towards that work plan.

It is suggested, but not mandatory, that campuses work towards an annual expenditure of $3 per full-time enrolled student.

Expenditures could include, but are not limited to:

  • Cost of trees purchased
  • Labor, equipment and supplies for tree planting, maintenance (pruning, watering, fertilization, mulching, competition control, etc.) and removal, if needed
  • Value of volunteer labor and other contributions from student or civic organizations
  • Staff time dedicated to campus forest planning, tree care contractors
  • All associated costs of the campus tree management including:
    • public education related to the campus forest;
    • professional training;
    • related association memberships (International Society of Arboriculture and local chapter, Society of Municipal Arborists, state urban forest council, etc.);
    • campus tree inventory

Standard 4 - Arbor Day Observance

An Arbor Day observance provides a golden opportunity to educate the campus community on the benefits of the trees on their campus property and in the community. The Arbor Day observance can be on the campus or held in conjunction with the community where the campus is located. Your observance may be held at an appropriate time for your campus as long as it is related to trees in some way.

Evidence—recording of the date the observance was held with attachment that includes program of activities, news coverage, and/or pictures—will be required when submitting your application.

Click here for free materials to help you promote your Arbor Day observance.

Standard 5 - Service Learning Project

The Service Learning Project should be an outreach of the spirit of the Tree Campus Higher Education initiative. This project should provide an opportunity to engage the student population with projects related to trees and can be part of a campus or community initiative. The project must be done within the course of the year application is submitted.

Project ideas include, but are not limited to:

  • Volunteer tree plantings or tree maintenance
  • Tree inventory (campus or community)
  • Establishment of campus arboreta
  • Student-led effort to have community designated a Tree City USA
  • Coordinate internships with the urban forestry or parks department in your community
  • Assist Project Learning Tree or other programs centered around trees in training teachers at schools near your campus or organize training for your school’s College of Education
  • Other tree-related service learning or educational programs for students
  • Partnership with state forestry departments on regional projects

Apply to become a Tree Campus Higher Education college.

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