By Hilary Smith, Sustainability Resource Center
“Do they even have trees in Utah?”
That’s what Salt Lake City forester Tony Gliot says people asked him when he was planning to move here from suburban Chicago.
“I think so,” was Gliot’s response. And when he got here, he told an audience on campus Wednesday, he found “a vibrant community of foresters and people who appreciate trees.”
Around 80 foresters, arborists, politicians, and tree advocates gathered Wednesday for the Utah Department of Natural Resources Forestry Division’s 2015 Northern Municipal Forestry Workshop, where the University of Utah officially received its Tree Campus USA designation, a national initiative created by the Arbor Day Foundation to promote the planting of healthy, well-chosen trees on campuses, as well as to inspire student involvement in planting, tree maintenance, and tree-related research and outreach. To earn the Tree Campus award, two- or four-year universities must form an advisory committee, compose a tree care plan, secure dedicated annual funding for tree projects, celebrate Arbor Day, and participate in service learning projects.
The University of Utah is the most recent of three Utah campuses to have received the honor. Utah State has been a Tree Campus for 5 years, and Weber State for 4 years. Campuses must reapply for the designation every year.
“I’m proud that the University of Utah has joined campuses across Utah and the U.S. to celebrate our urban forests,” said Elise Gatti, chairperson of the U of U Campus Tree Committee. “It’s a great opportunity to engage student learning and research that focuses on the many benefits of trees, as well as their needs.”
Sustainability Resource Center director Myron Willson accepted the Tree Campus flag on behalf of the U. Willson spoke
briefly about the wide-ranging sustainable benefits provided by trees on campus: carbon sequestration, general beautification, and contribution to pedestrian pathways that encourage staff and students to get outside and get walking.
In addition to three campuses, this year 89 communities across Utah received Tree City USA designations or recertifications. To be a Tree City, a community must meet standards similar to those for Tree Campuses, including having a city tree board or department, a tree care ordinance, a funded community forestry program, and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.
Representatives from each community were invited forward during Wednesday’s event to collect their honors and to describe one or two of their cities’ tree successes.
Some cities, like Saratoga Springs, Elk Ridge, and Fairview, were receiving the designation for the first time; others, like Salt Lake City, Brigham City, Logan, Murray, Ogden, Price, Provo, Springville, and Wellsville, have been Tree Cities for more than 25 years. At 38 years, Murray holds the distinction of being Utah’s oldest Tree City.
Provo City Power, Brigham City Power, and Rocky Mountain Power were also recognized as Tree Lines USA, a designation awarded to utility companies that demonstrate quality tree care, provide annual worker training in best practices, plant trees and provide public education on trees, institute a tree-based energy conservation program, and sponsor or participate in Arbor Day celebrations.
Trends resounded throughout the honorees’ speeches. Many of Utah’s Tree Cities are striving to keep up with rapid development, by planting more and more trees. Several cities’ representatives discussed their partnerships with community businesses, their coordination of volunteer tree planting events, and their bringing of tree-related lessons into elementary schools.
The event also included morning workshops focusing on state urban forestry initiatives, as well as opportunities to share what has worked for Utah’s urban foresters and what hasn’t.
“If you love trees, you love them wherever you are,” said Provo City Forester Ty Nielsen.
Hilary Smith is a graduate student in Environmental Humanities. She is a graduate assistant in the Sustainability Resource Center.