Eric Taunton,  Staff Writer

Jacksonville State University will be hosting its annual Arbor Day event, which celebrates the role of trees in daily life as well as promotes tree planting and care to residents of Jacksonville.

“The annual event is a collaborative effort between JSU and City of Jacksonville Tree Committees,” said Tyler Law, Athletic and Grounds Superintendent at JSU. JSU was named a Tree City USA campus in 2012.

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JSU was named a Tree City USA campus on Feb. 23, 2012. Pictured above are Neil Letson, Jacksoville Mayor Johnny Smith, Matt McCollough and former JSU president Dr. William A. Meehan. (All photos by Matt Reynolds/JSU)

Arbor Day in the United States originated in Nebraska City, Neb. by Julius Morton. A New York native, Morton moved to Nebraska with his wife, Caroline, in 1854 where he became the editor of Nebraska’s first newspaper. Given this platform, Morton often gave agricultural advice to his readers. The State Board of Agriculture accepted a resolution given by Morton to “set aside one day to plant trees, both forest and the fruit.” Because of this, Morton is now known as the “Founder of Arbor Day.”

There are numerous organizations located in the U.S. and abroad designed to protect and spread awareness regarding trees such as the American Forests, Forest Ethics, International Society of Arboriculture, Natural Resource Conservation Service and Rainforest Alliance.

The American Forests organization, created in 1875, helped create National Forest and National forest systems within the U.S. American Forests, planting millions of trees a year and advocating the benefits of rural and urban trees, good science and sound policy.

The Forest Ethics organization works to protect trees by reforming paper and wood industries throughout the country.

The International Society of Arboriculture, created in 1924, works to raise global knowledge about the benefits of protecting trees.

The Rainforest Alliance organization works to protect tropical forests for the betterment of the Earth.

The National Resource Conservation Service, or NRCS, provides assistance to conservation districts, state and federal agencies, NRCS Earth Team volunteers, agricultural and environmental groups and professional societies. The NRCS also helps ranchers and farmers establish conservation systems according to the land makeup.

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A JSU groundskeeper plants a tree  at JSU’s 2012 Arbor Day celebration.

Despite the warnings of such groups, deforestation has become a huge global threat to forests Many countries around the world directly contribute to deforestation including Indonesia, Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo, using trees for resources such as gas and paper.

The rate of deforestation has increased in the last 52 years. Scientists estimate that forests might be completely nonexistent within the next 100 years. This could lead to animal extinction, lack of water vapor released into the atmosphere, and soil erosion. Although reforestation would help rebuild wildlife habitats and reduce the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it would not reverse the damage that deforestation has caused.

A Nuttell oak tree will be recognized at this year’s Arbor Day event on Feb. 16, 2017 on the east lawn of Meehan Hall at 3:30 p.m. Each year following the Arbor Day event, the city of Jacksonville hosts its “Tree Giveaway on the Square,” where thousands of sapling trees are given to the public for planting. This year’s giveaway will take place on February 17 at 1:00 p.m. on the town square.

*All photos by Matt Reynolds/JSU

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Members of JSU’s Earth Club pose with JSU’s Tree Campus USA banner in 2012.
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Dr. William Meehan participates in JSU’s inaugural tree planting ceremony on Feb. 23, 2012
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