OKLAHOMA CITY??"Tree lovers, grab your shovels! It's time to plant trees according to Oklahoma Forestry Services, a division of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. Arbor Week, the tree planters' holiday, is the last full week of March in Oklahoma.
Twenty-one cities and two Air Force Bases are being recognized this year as Tree City USA communities. Pauls Valley is the state's oldest Tree City USA. It has qualified for this honor for 33 consecutive years. The smallest community being recognized is the Town of Morrison with a population of 800 and the largest is the City of Tulsa with a population of almost 400,000. Almost one-third of the state lives in these Tree City USA communities.
To earn Tree City USA status from the Arbor Day Foundation, a city must establish a tree board, create a tree ordinance, spend at least $2 per capita annually on a community forestry program and celebrate Arbor Day with an official proclamation and city-wide observance. These Oklahoma communities met the standards: Ada, Alva, Ardmore, Bartlesville, Bixby, Broken Arrow, Claremore, Edmond, Enid, Guthrie, Kingfisher, McAlester, Midwest City, Morrison, Muskogee, Nichols Hills, Norman, Pauls Valley, Ponca City, Shawnee, Tinker Air Force Base, Tulsa and Vance Air Force Base.
Most of the state's residents are also served by a utility company recognized as a Tree Line USA. This year's honorees are AEP-PSO, Edmond Electric, OG&E, Oklahoma Electric Cooperative and People's Electric Cooperative.
The Tree Line USA program exists to recognize best practices in public and private utility arboriculture, demonstrating how trees and utilities can co-exist for the benefit of communities and citizens. Five core standards require quality tree care, annual worker training, tree planting and public education programs, a formal tree-based energy conservation program and sponsorship or partnership in an annual Arbor Day event at the community level.
A special program allows the beautification efforts of a college or university to be recognized with Tree Campus USA status. Cameron University in Lawton and the University of Oklahoma in Norman achieved this recognition for the first time in 2013. Other honorees are Northeastern State University ??" Tahlequah Campus, Oklahoma City Community College, Oklahoma City University, Oklahoma State University and Tulsa Community College ??" NE Campus.
Featured speakers at this year's celebration held at the Governor's Mansion in Oklahoma City on March 13 were Urban Forestry Coordinator Mark Bays with Oklahoma Forestry Services, Ed Macie, Regional Urban Forestry Program Manager with the USDA Forest Service in Atlanta, GA, and Jared Carlson, Development Manager, Related-Business Ventures with the Arbor Day Foundation in Nebraska City, NE. Macie urged Oklahoma's communities to take better care of hard-working urban trees to reap environmental benefits. Carlson explained the energy-savings potential of properly selected trees.
The larger the tree planted, the larger the return on benefits and services the tree provides. Studies have shown that a single large tree like an oak or hackberry can return as much as six times the actual cost of planting and maintaining it over the course of 20 years when environmental and energy savings benefits are calculated. A large tree that lives 40 years can provide as much as $2,356 in total net benefits.
???I could not imagine living in a world without trees,??? said Urban Forestry Coordinator Mark Bays. ???It's inspirational to see so many Oklahomans working together to insure this valuable resource will always be with us.???
Oklahoma Forestry Services coordinates the Tree City USA, Tree Line USA and Tree Campus USA programs in Oklahoma. It co-sponsors the annual celebration at the state capital with assistance from the Oklahoma Urban and Community Forestry Council, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to public education about the benefits of trees.