Tree Campus USA
By: Drue Watkins
Announced on Feb. 14, Cameron University (CU) officially retained Tree Campus USA Designation for the sixth consecutive year.
Founded in 2008 by the Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota, Tree Campus USA is a nationally recognized program that honors colleges, universities and their leaders for promoting healthy trees and campuses.
According to their website, the main goal of Tree Campus USA is to actively engage students, faculty and staff in the spirit of conservation.
To retain designation, CU met all five standards set forth by Tree Campus USA:
- A Campus Tree Advisory Committee comprised of university representatives.
- A Campus Tree Care Plan flexible enough to fit the needs of the particular campus.
- A program with dedicated annual expenditures.
- An Arbor Day observance poised around educating the campus community on the benefits of trees.
- Promoting student-led Service Learning Projects designed to spread the spirit of the Tree Campus USA initiative.
Cameron Department Chair of Agriculture, Biology and Health Sciences Dr. Terry Conley said it is a tough challenge to fill the required quota, but he knows Cameron is up to the challenge each year.
“We focus on each of the standards individually,” he said, “so we can continually mantain our own high-standard of campus environments.”
Conley also said the Tree Campus USA program is great for Cameron and exemplifies the university’s love for natural environments on campus.
“I think it’s important because it recognizes that we’re connected to nature,” he said. “A lot of studies have been done that look at human health and wellness, and that interacting with our natural environment is a calming, stress reducing activity.
“It can be just as simple as ‘Wow, I’m really wound up right now, so I’m going to sit on a bench at campus and contemplate the trees and listen to the birds chirp.’”
As the conversation over climate change continues, Conley said this sort of emphasis for universities is crucial toward aiding the planet.
“We live in a world where the climate is changing,” he said, “so it’s nice to sit and appreciate what we have and can produce. We’re fully capable of accomplishing big things.”
Conley said that in 2012, Cameron started emphasizing a new beautification program that culminated in introducing dozens of new tree species and—by 2016—resulted in the planting of over 1,000 trees.
In 2018 alone, Cameron planted over 50 trees.
Conley said a lot of it is thanks to former CU President Cindy Ross.
“Cindy Ross recognized the importance of a healthy environment and started actively planting trees on campus,” he said. “Her vision was to make this [Cameron] look like a college campus.
“They started landscaping, planting, adding sidewalks. It makes Cameron look special.”
Conley also said it’s encouraging to see the progress taken by CU.
“I hope to continue seeing the steps Cameron is taking with our campus,” he said. “Trees give so much to people—shade, oxygen. Their importance cannot be understated, and our involvement with Tree Campus USA is a big reason as for why we keep pushing these things.
“It’s not just for those of us now, but for those who come next: your grandchildren.”
According to a 10-year celebration summary released by Tree Campus USA in 2017, universities across the country spent a combined $51,297,366 on tree planting, care and management, as well 36,349 trees planted on campuses.
As of 2017, 364 colleges and universities have gained membership into Tree Campus USA.
President of the Arbor Day Foundation Dan Lambe said tree campuses and their students set examples for the surrounding communities and help create healthier environments.
“Because of Cameron University’s participation,” he said, “air will be purer, water cleaner, and your students and faculty will be surrounded by the shade and beauty the trees provide.”
He also said Cameron’s involvement is a great sign for the future of beautifying campus.
Conley said the best way for students to get involved in the caretaking of campus is to participate in the many events that the Department of Agriculture, Biology and Health hosts.
“Go out and help plant a tree,” he said. “It’s a wonderful experience that can create lasting memories—just go shovel a little bit of dirt and temper the soil. You can look back and say, ‘That’s my tree. I helped plant that.’ The rewarding nature of aiding in that is remarkable; it gives students a lasting impact for once they leave and become alumni.
“So, you know, go hug a tree.”
For more information on Tree Campus USA—or for how to contribute to a healthier campus—contact the CU Department of Agriculture, Biology and Health at 580.581.2373 or visit the Tree Campus USA website at www.arborday.org/programs/treecampususa for tips, benefits and online story-sharing.