For the sixth consecutive year, Mississippi State University is being recognized for its sustained commitment to environmental stewardship with the Arbor Day Foundation's Tree Campus USA designation.
To achieve this distinction, MSU met five core standards for an effective campus forest management plan, including establishment of a tree advisory committee, evidence of a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for a campus tree program, an Arbor Day observance, and sponsorship of student service-learning projects.
Bart Prather, MSU associate director of campus landscape, said over the past five years, the university has planted approximately 85-100 new trees on the nearly 1,500 maintained acres of its Starkville campus.
Since 2012, MSU's annual Arbor Day celebration has recognized the numerous benefits trees provide the university and the state, from cleaner air and shade to lower energy costs and storm water control. The February ceremony and tree planting annual event is coordinated by the Campus Tree Advisory Committee with support from the MSU student chapter of the Society of American Foresters and Waldorf Scholarship recipients.
Nationally, Arbor Day is April 26, but the South's climate dictates an earlier celebration date based on the best time to plant trees.
Marc Measells, extension associate for the College of Forest Resources' Department of Forestry, serves as chair of the Campus Tree Advisory Committee. He said at this year's Arbor Day celebration, committee members and students planted 40 loblolly pine seedlings donated by ArborGen, the largest global seedling supplier and the leading provider of advanced genetics for the forest industry.
"In addition to the Arbor Day event, the committee placed tree tags on select trees along the MSU Campus Tree Trail," he said. "We are currently working on expanding the tree trail to include different species and cover more of campus. One of our student committee members completed a tree inventory for a small section of campus, and we plan to continue expanding the inventory to other parts of campus with help from student volunteers."
Tree Campus USA, a national program launched in 2008 by the Arbor Day Foundation, honors colleges and universities and their leaders for promoting healthy trees and engaging students and staff in the spirit of conservation.
"We celebrate your diligence in improving the environment and quality of life at MSU, and thank you for contributing to a healthier planet for all of us. Your continued dedication to trees will help to create lasting change for future generations," Arbor Day Foundation President Dan Lambe said in a recent letter to MSU President Mark E. Keenum.
Lambe said the Arbor Day Foundation recently launched the Time for Trees initiative with unprecedented goals of planting 100 million trees in forests and communities and inspiring 5 million tree planters by 2022. By earning Tree Campus USA recognition, MSU plays an important role in the success of this initiative, he said.
Among other recognition, MSU's exceptionally maintained campus has received multiple honors from the Professional Grounds Management Society.
For more on the Arbor Day Foundation and its Tree Campus USA program, visit www.arborday.org.