Why to plant trees … wisely: Arbor Day events help us recognize their importance

BY BROC BOWERS
Arbor Day is not only a national, state, county and even city celebrated holiday, it is celebrated worldwide in 27 different countries. It was first observed as a formal holiday in Nebraska on April 10, 1872.
As of 2018, nearly 70 million trees have been planted around the globe in the name of Arbor Day. This is a staggering number compared to the initial Nebraska celebration. Many of us realize the importance of trees to ourselves and our environment, but some still aren’t aware.
Why should you plant more trees? That’s just more leaves you have to rake up in the fall. Here is just a brief snapshot of the impact trees have on our world.
Trees are utilized for numerous environmental and personal health reasons. They take in carbon dioxide and emit oxygen for us to breath. Trees also filter the air and soil of pollutants and toxins with their leaves and roots. This increases air quality and therefore decreases illness caused by poor air quality, like asthma.
Everyone cares about  clean water to drink, fish and recreate in, right? Tree roots hold soil together, slow rain water percolation into soil, and reduce erosion and runoff into the storm water system. When it rains, less soil and pollutants make it into our waterways and less costly storm water treatment has to be done.
Do you enjoy paying high heating and air conditioning bills? Trees help keep our homes warm in the winter by diverting chilling winds, and shade our homes in the summer by blocking large amounts of solar radiation. This makes it easier for your AC unit to cool your home.
Do you ever see those 10 foot walls along the highway and wonder what they are? Those are barriers for the local residents so they don’t hear all of the noise from traffic. Trees can do a much better job of noise abatement due to their height.
Those are just some of the measurable benefits of trees. Additionally, they have many positive effects on mental health. Trees can increase a feeling of pride in one’s city and self worth. Trees make people think of their heritage and how connected their elders were to the trees and the land, making them feel more connected themselves.
A big beautiful tree or a young up-and-coming sapling both add to the aesthetics of an area, and are also well known to increase property value. Additionally, mature trees offer beauty in their flower bloom every spring, and any age tree goes through a vibrant color change each fall that some drive great distances to see.
To be fair, with the good being stated, the bad must be as well. Trees do emit varying amounts of greenhouse gases to perform biological functions including: temperature control of leaves, pollinating insect attraction and repellence of harmful insects. This sounds threatening to some, but trees only account for less than 10 percent of volatile organic compounds emitted in the world.
Trees also require different amounts of maintenance depending on species and location, and the tools used to do so also emit greenhouse gases. A maintenance plan should be made before a tree is ever planted. If maintenance is done in the early years of a tree’s lifetime it saves an exponential amount of money and maintenance in years to come.
Almost every decision made has benefits and costs, and tree planting is no exception. One must understand that if the right tree species is planted in the right location, the benefits far outweigh the costs. For example, don’t plant under a power line. Instead, plant somewhere that the tree can live to be mature, and give the maximum amount of environmental benefits.
Arbor Day is celebrated  every year on the last Friday in April (April 26). In West Virginia Arbor Day is celebrated as more of an Arbor Month, with different celebrations all over the state on different days. Some even take place in May and October.
Take the initiative to go to an Arbor Day planting and see what your town is doing to improve your urban forest. If you would like to take part of any state Arbor Day celebrations contact West Virginia’s  urban forestry coordinator, Robert Hannah at Robert.L.Hannah@wv.gov, or 304-825-6983.

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