Arbor Day – Let’s Celebrate Trees

Home Gardeners
Arbor Day – Let’s Celebrate Trees
Sarah Browning, Extension Educator
Arbor Day – Let’s Celebrate Trees
Shade and evapotranspiraton from a tree can reduce air temperatures by as much as 25° F at ground level beneath the tree.

In 2024, National Arbor Day will be celebrated April 26. Arbor Day is a Nebraska creation. Early Nebraska settlers missed the trees they left behind in their homes. Their first sight and experience of the Great Plains must have been a shock and brought home the tremendous value of trees for environmental protection, wildlife habitat, food & fuel production and beauty. Often, the first sod broken was the site to plant trees. Fragile seedlings often were transported many miles to plant on barren homesteads.

Arbor Day founder J. Sterling Morton's great love for trees and his conviction that planting trees could help develop Nebraska were great factors in the holiday's observance in Nebraska. His efforts also resulted in Nebraska being named the Tree Planter State, and the spread of Arbor Day nationwide.

Nebraska can be justly proud of its tree planting heritage. Arbor Day is the time to reflect on the accomplishments in the past, but more importantly, it is a time to renew tree planting efforts for the benefit of future generations.

The Power of Trees
Climate change is the biggest challenge facing the future of our planet, but planting trees can help us create a better future in several ways. And every new tree planted is a step in the right direction. However, the value trees provide - making our communities attractive, healthy and economically vital - often go underappreciated.

Maples in downtown area

  • Buildings and paving in community areas lacking trees, result in “heat islands” which can experience temperatures as much as 12° F degrees higher than similar areas with a vibrant tree canopy. This creates health problems for residents, making heat-related problems more common and worsening existing illnesses or diseases.
  • Climate change makes the frequency of extreme heat events more common, but trees are a low tech, yet every effective, way to alleviate heat effects. Shade trees also reduce the need for heating and cooling system usage, thus reducing the use of fossil fuels and reducing emissions which contribute to further global warming. A medium-sized tree, 25 to 40 feet tall, reduces annual heating and cooling costs by 8 to 12%.
  • Trees take in carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas and contributor to global warming. They use carbon dioxide to make sugars for growth and release oxygen back to the environment. Wood in trees is a tremendous carbon sink, being about 50% carbon. It takes years for wood to break down after the tree dies and the carbon to be released to the environment or soil.
  • Trees add value to retail shopping areas. Healthy, attractive, well-maintained trees create a positive and welcoming environment for customers. A study published in the Journal of Arboriculture, found customers were willing to pay 9% more when shopping in retail areas with high quality tree coverage and were willing to travel further to reach the shopping center. So, why don’t all our commercial retail spaces have beautiful healthy trees? Not the few half-dead, contractor trees found in most developments?

Forestry Grants
The Nebraska Forest Service recently received 1.875 million dollars in grant funding to improve community forestry in disadvantaged communities. In 2024, $100,000 dollars are available to communities with populations of 8,000 or smaller. Grants will be awarded in amounts from $2,000 to $25,000; the dead line for applications is May 15, 2024. Visit the Nebraska Forest Service,, for more information on identifying disadvantaged communities and grant applications.

shade in neighborhood

Grant goals include:

  • improved heat resiliency
  • increased access to urban tree canopy and their benefits
  • broader community engagement in local urban forest planning, and
  • increased resilience to climate change, pests and storm events.

Arbor Day LNK
Lincoln will celebrate Arbor Day on Sunday April 28th from 12:30 to 3:30 pm at Antelope Park. Events include educational booths, yoga in the park, zumba, live music, tree identification program, food trunks, and more. Each of the first 150 participants will receive a free 4 to 6-foot tree, with a variety of species available to choose from – but they are first come, first served.  Make plans to get involved!

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Associated Video

Digging Deeper Urban Forestry

Digging Deeper with Backyard Farmer focuses on the importance of urban forestry with Nebraska Extension Landscape Horticulture Specialist Kim Todd, UNL Professor of Practice Eric North and Pete Smith from the Arbor Day Foundation. July 29, 2019

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