Governor emphasizes value of trees with Arbor Day proclamation

JEFFERSON CITY Mo – Gov. Jay Nixon emphasized the value of Missouri’s trees and forests during a recent ceremony at the State Capitol, proclaiming April 1 as Arbor Day in Missouri and reminding people of National Arbor Day on April 29.

As part of the ceremony, Norborne Elementary School fifth-grader Leah Pieper presented Gov. Nixon with a copy of her winning poster from the 2011 Missouri Arbor Day Poster Contest. The contest is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), the Missouri Community Forestry Council and Forest ReLeaf of Missouri. Approximately 800 fifth-grade students from Missouri schools around the state created posters reflecting the theme “Trees are Terrific….and Energy Wise.”

Pieper will receive a $100 savings bond from Forest ReLeaf of Missouri and a framed certificate from the Missouri Community Forestry Council. MDC will plant a commemorative tree at her school. The Pieper family has also been invited to attend the “TREEmendous Forest Festival” on April 30 and May 1 at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis where Leah’s winning poster will be on display.

“Through the poster contest, Leah and hundreds of other students have learned about the importance of trees to our environment and how they can make a difference,” said MDC Forestry Program Supervisor Justine Gartner. “The poster contest is a fun yet educational way to help students understand the value that trees have in our communities.”

The Arbor Day ceremony included a presentation of several potted trees from the MDC to the governor by fourth-grade students from around the state. The students were Sydney Borisenko who goes to Southern Boone Elementary, Kaylee Little who goes to Licking Elementary School and Madison Henry who goes to Raymondville R-7 Elementary School.

In support of Arbor Day and in cooperation with the Missouri Department of Transportation’s (MoDOT) “Trees for Tomorrow” program, MDC again distributed nearly 102,000 tree seedlings from its George O. White Nursery to about 4,000 fourth-grade classes in March. MODOT provides financial support for the production and distribution of the trees. In addition to the seedlings, MDC’s Discover Nature Schools program provides educational curriculum that includes grade-appropriate information and activities to help students understand the importance of trees and conservation.

“No matter where we live -- in the country, suburbs or cities -- trees and forests are vital to our health, wealth and happiness,” said MDC State Forester Lisa Allen. “Covering more than one-third of the Show-Me state, our forests and woods protect our soil from erosion and filter our water. They provide oxygen we need to breathe and clean our air by trapping and storing pollution, including tons of carbon emissions from fossil fuels.”

Allen added that Missouri forests provide lumber and numerous other wood products used around our state and around the world. This industry supports more than 32,000 Missouri jobs and generates almost $6 billion in annual economic activity.

“Missouri forests also provide habitats for an incredible diversity of plants and animals that could not exist without them, along with a wealth of outdoor recreational opportunities and breathtaking scenic beauty,” she said.

Missouri has been observing Arbor Day since 1886 when the General Assembly declared that the first Friday in April should be set aside for the appreciation and planting of trees. National Arbor Day is recognized on the last Friday of April. Each state determines its Arbor Day based on its unique climate and weather patterns.

Celebrate Arbor Day by planting a tree. For tips on selecting and planting the right tree for your situation, visit www.MissouriConservation.org and search “tree planting.”