Why is Arbor Day Important

Why is Arbor Day so important? While Julius Sterling Morton (1832-1902) served as the Secretary of Agriculture under President Grover Cleveland, his most important legacy is the creation of Arbor Day. Today, all 50 US states and many countries around the world formally recognize the holiday, which highlights the value of trees in communities and the importance of planting them.

Morton, a journalist and editor of The Nebraska City News, often wrote about agriculture and, especially, the value of trees in a largely treeless state. In 1872, Morton felt the land and the state's economy could be improved from large-scale tree planting, so he proposed to the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture a holiday for tree planting. The idea was eagerly accepted. From fruit trees to shade trees, Morton encouraged all Nebraskans to participate; on that first Arbor Day, more than a million trees were planted in the state.

Due to the success of Nebraska's Arbor Day, which was made an official state holiday in 1885, other area states, such as Kansas, Ohio and Tennessee, started their own Arbor Days; each state chose a different day based on local climate. It wasn't until 1970 that President Richard Nixon made Arbor Day a national event and selected the last Friday in April to emphasize tree planting.

Each state still holds its individual Arbor Day on its own specific date, to maximize weather conditions. For example, Alabama Arbor Day is the last week of February, while Hawaii holds their Arbor Day on the first Friday in November and Wisconsin's is the last Friday in April.

Community often have special Arbor Day events, from Fun Runs and fundraisers to poster and poetry contests for kids, all designed to spread the word about the benefits of planting trees. Other ideas for participating in Arbor Day include holding tree-ID hikes, tree trivia contests, open house at a local nursery or simply attending to the trees on your own property.

Today, versions of Arbor Day are celebrated in many different countries around the world, such as Australia, Japan, Israel, Korea, India, Iceland and Yugoslavia.

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