Based on conservation efforts, academic programs and sustainability initiatives ― in addition to plenty of foliage ― Western Carolina University has been named again as a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation.
The foundation honors colleges and universities for promoting healthy trees and engaging students and staff in the spirit of conservation. The designation takes a special meaning this year, with the campus theme of sustainability and the environment.
“The recognition is another acknowledgment of our focus on environmental stewardship,” said Lauren Bishop, WCU chief sustainability officer. “We have a university that gladly incorporates energy conservation, waste reduction, water efficiency and recycling into daily practice.”
To be designated as a Tree Campus USA, WCU had to meet five core standards ― maintaining a tree advisory committee, having a tree-care plan, dedicating annual expenditures for its tree program, holding Arbor Day observances and supporting student service-learning projects.
More than 1,500 trees have been planted on campus in recent years by both grounds maintenance staff and by landscape contractors involved with university construction projects. Another 200 or more trees are expected to be added in the next two years.
The recognition also stems from the collaborative and ongoing efforts involving students in natural resources and conservation management, environmental science and other disciplines. An example was a campus tree census and the development of a smartphone app called “WCUTrees," led by Diane Styers, associate professor and head of the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resources.
“The campus tree map that Dr. Styers and her team have put together is one of the most exciting things to happen for our tree care program in my time as campus arborist,” said Andrew Thigpen, WCU horticultural specialist. “I can use it to instantly access records on the size, history, maintenance needs, appearance and health of any tree or group of trees on campus. As we continue to use and add to the campus tree map’s database, it will become an ever-more integrated and useful tool in daily operations. With a tap of a finger, I can browse through or add to our records on the maintenance history or our future plans for any tree on campus.
The database can be used to flag trees with pest problems, environmental issues, or for replacement, and that is hopefully just the beginning," Thigpen said. "The ability to easily add to and track that information will continue to make planning and implementing solutions, both large and small, a reality in a way that would have scarcely been possible before. I am extremely grateful for all the hard work that has been done putting this program together and am excited about its daily utility in the field and its future potential,” he said.
Arbor Day, an annual celebration of trees and a traditional time to plant trees, is Friday, April 24. WCU will plant a white oak in commemoration of the day and the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, in a ceremony at a future date to be determined.
"If ever there was a time for trees, now is that time,” Lauren Weyers, program coordinator with the Arbor Day Foundation, said in announcing the designation. “Communities worldwide are facing issues with air quality, water resources, personal health and well-being, and energy use. Western Carolina University is stepping up to do its part. As a result of your university’s commitment to effective urban forest management, you are helping to provide a solution to these global challenges.”
For more information about WCU’s sustainability efforts, contact Bishop at 828-227-3562 or firstname.lastname@example.org.