The University of Arkansas at Monticello recognizes the importance of a tree. It is home to the state’s only college forestry program, and much of southeast Arkansas’ economy is dependent on the forest and timber industry. So it should come as no surprise that the UAM campus is a Tree Campus USA recognized campus.
To maintain the Tree Campus USA status and in conjunction with Arbor Day 2021, the University took a few moments Friday to plant a tree. The Greenspire Linden tree was donated by the Arkansas State Division of Forestry, which also provided the manpower to get the potted tree lifted off the truck and rolled into its permanent site near the campus clock tower.
UAM associate professor of History Dr. John Henris hosted the event.
“The reason we are celebrating this fall instead of the spring, which is more traditional, is that the pandemic threw off our Arbor Day celebrations here at UAM the last two seasons,” Henris said. “So we celebrated it this fall to get back on track. The tree planting allows us to maintain a Tree Campus USA status.”
UAM has maintained a Tree Campus USA designation since 2010, making it the oldest established university campus in the state to maintain that title. “UAM also has the state of Arkansas’ only forestry program, so it fits with the university’s mission,” Henris said.
While Covid-19 delayed April’s Arbor Day event, planting late in the fall is common in the south because it is healthier for the tree, according to College of Forestry, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Dean Michael Blazier.
“In the South, the climate is such that by April, it is too warm to put a new tree in the ground. It is stressful to move them and plant them at that time,” he said. “So we’re able to plant them in fall through the winter months. The best time of the year is from late October to February. Optimum months are December and January while the trees’ root systems are dormant. They can be excavated with less stress before the spring heating begins.”
UAM Chancellor Peggy Doss kicked off the ceremonial planting by reading a proclamation celebrating the contributions trees make to health and the economy. Trees contribute to clean air, wildlife, recreation, and wood products. They also offer a sense of pride to the UAM campus, she said.
Two volunteer students were chosen to provide information about the history of Arbor Day. Third-year accounting student Anna Lynn said Arbor Day began in Nebraska in the 1870s to help beautify the Great Plains. First-year accounting student Lexi Ruth Freeman said trees produce renewable resources and fuels for our homes in addition to beautifying the campus.
Blazier said trees are more than aesthetic. “Trees,” he said, “are seen as great assets in terms of storing the extra carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”
“CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is increasing,” Blazier said. “Trees are offsetting that threat. Because of how long-lived trees are, there is as much mass above ground as below ground. Trees are taking CO2 from the atmosphere and converting it into woody biomass that is stored for a long time. When those trees are felled and are turned into structural timber, those structures will last a long time as well.”
Retired UAM Forestry Professor Lynne Thompson took an active role in prepping the Greenspire Linden Tree for Friday’s planting. Just like his days in the classroom, he gave instructions on how big the hole should be and shared some statistics about UAM’s trees with the small gathering. He said there are 1,238 trees on campus. Water Oak dominates the species with 84 trees at 7 percent.
County Forester Tabitha Holloway was also instrumental in getting the tree into the ground.
UAM plans to return to its normal Arbor Day Celebration in April 2022, when another species of tree will be planted.