Western recognized for environmental contributions

Kayla Curless, Courier Staff

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For its seventh consecutive year, Western Illinois University has been awarded the Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation. Since 2008, the Tree Campus USA program has acknowledged colleges and universities that effectively manage their campus trees and have connected with their communities to go beyond campus borders for a healthier environment.

For a campus to achieve the title it must meet the program’s five standards: have a campus tree advisory committee, maintain a campus tree care plan, allocate finances for tree expenditures, host an Arbor Day observance and provide a service learning project for the community. Western Illinois University upholds these five standards every year.

Western’s Tree Advisory Committee is made up of representatives from many groups across campus including faculty, staff and students. Tara Heath, s uperintendent of grounds, and Paul Blome, forestry instructor, are cochairs of the committee. The committee meets each semester to go over various issues and updates regarding the Campus Tree Care Plan. This plan outlines tree care procedures and goals.

Western Illinois University has been observing Arbor Day before the Tree Campus USA program was created. The celebration involves an official of the University making an Arbor Day Proclamation followed by students, faculty and staff coming together to plant trees on campus. Retired WIU forestry professor, Tom Green, started a tree planting project in 1993 that partners with elementary schools in Western Illinois to celebrate Arbor Day.

The tradition carries on with Forestry Instructor Paul Blome taking the lead and WIU urban forestry management students to help contribute.

“WIU recognizes the contributions trees provide to the campus community and so we strive to take good care of the trees, because in the long-run the trees take good care of us,” Blome said.

We Care, Western’s volunteer campus beautification project, plants trees and completes mulching around existing trees each spring and fall. Heath is in charge of coordinating the We Care project. In addition to these projects each spring, Western’s Tree Advisory Committee hosts a tree planting ceremony in honor of employees and students who have passed away.

Trees do more than just provide shade on hot summer days. They play a key role in making a positive impact on the environment. Trees work by producing oxygen and removing carbon dioxide and contaminants from the air. Trees are a habitat for birds and other wildlife. They can also reduce urban runoff and erosion by storing water and reducing the force of rain as it falls. Western’s efforts in planting and maintaining its trees and landscape helps create a healthier environment for all inhabitants in the community. Trees can also serve as significant historic landmarks, such as the leaning sycamore tree over Lake Ruth and the large oak trees in front of Sherman, as well as serving the University’s academic mission. Numerous departments across campus use a variety of the trees within coursework, and the school of agriculture houses forestry courses taught by Blome.

By keeping up maintenance of the landscape, Western can uphold its reputation as not only Tree Campus USA, but as a clean air campus that future generations of students can enjoy.

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