To plant a tree is to believe in tomorrow

UND, N.D. Forest Service celebrate Arbor Day on University’s Arbor Day Foundation-recognized campus  

Jed Shivers (left), vice president for finance and operations at UND, and others survey their handiwork after planting a tree as part of UND and the North Dakota Forest Service’s State Arbor Day celebration on May 11, 2022. Photo by Tom Dennis/UND Today.

Every forester’s favorite holiday blossomed like a dogwood tree on Wednesday, as UND teamed up with the North Dakota Forest Service to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day.

“Arbor Day is a day we look forward to all year long,” said Thomas Claeys, North Dakota state forester.

“It’s a day that reflects on the future. And after a year of winter, and a little more winter, and still more winter and then some rain and some flooding – and before that, drought – we’re really happy to be here, just to pause and to do something good.”

North Dakota’s official State Arbor Day ceremony took place in front of UND’s “Celebrated” memorial, with its backdrop of cottonwood and spruce trees along the nearby English coulee. After the ceremony, UND Arborist Jared Johnson led the planting of a Pink Crabapple, a Princeton Elm and a Prairie Cascade Willow tree.

Thomas Claeys, North Dakota state forester, addresses the audience at the joint UND-North Dakota Forest Service’s State Arbor Day celebration on May 11, 2022. Photo by Tom Dennis/UND Today.

A Tree Campus Higher Education university

At a glance, every visitor to the campus can see UND’s dedication to the art and science of urban forestry, Claeys said.

“It’s obvious when you look around that Grand Forks and UND take a great deal of pride in their community – and not only in trees, but also natural resources, buildings, infrastructure and everything else.”

Grand Forks is one of 54 communities in North Dakota designated as a Tree City USA, Claeys noted. Moreover, “the city has held Tree City USA certification since 1976. That’s a significant commitment.”

And last year, UND itself earned Tree Campus Higher Education status. The recognition program from the Arbor Day Foundation honors successful campus forest management and engagement of students and staff in conservation goals.

Only three other colleges in North Dakota have been so honored, Claeys said.

Trees make a difference in virtually all aspects of life at UND, including recruiting, said Mike Pieper, associate vice president for facilities and another speaker at the program. “One of the things we know in higher ed is that when it comes to undergraduate enrollment especially, first impressions and the on-campus experience play a major role,” he said.

“So, we try our best to play that part. Every year we get voted the most beautiful campus in North Dakota, and we want to maintain that status.

With that in mind, actively managing UND’s trees makes a huge difference, Pieper said. For example, when Pieper first came to UND, North Dakota’s windy conditions caused lots of storm damage to the University’s trees, he said. Today, thanks to Arborist Jared Johnson and others’ management, “we do not deal with as much storm damage and debris as we once did.

“So the management of our trees is helping us even from a financial standpoint.”

Bill Sheridan, Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor of Biology at UND, gestures toward nearby trees as he addresses the audience gathered for the State Arbor Day celebration on the UND campus on May 11, 2022. Photo by Tom Dennis/UND Today.

‘All for a better tomorrow’

Another speaker was Bill Sheridan, Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor of Biology at UND. As the Grand Forks Herald reported, Sheridan “made sure to point out several old Cottonwood trees, trees he said predated the existence of UND and with care, will continue to grow for years.

“Sheridan became emotional when he spoke of his friend Eric Bergeson, who died in early April after a struggle with depression and anxiety,” the Herald continued. “Bergeson was the former owner of Bergeson Nursery, near Fertile, Minn.

“Sheridan said an important lesson that can be learned from Bergeson’s life is to be kind to one another. One way to do that, he said, is to continue efforts to beautify the UND campus not only by planting trees, but by doing so in a cooperative manner.

“‘We want to make this an even more beautiful and outstanding university,’ Sheridan said.”

As Vice President for Finance and Operations Jed Shivers pointed out at the ceremony, Arbor Day first was celebrated in Nebraska in 1872, making this year the 150th anniversary of that event. “And while most holidays celebrate something that has already happened, it’s worth remembering that Arbor Day represents a hope for the future,” Shivers said.

“The simple act of planting a tree represents a belief that the tree will grow to provide us with clean air, cooling shade, habitat for wildlife, healthy communities and endless natural beauty – all for a better tomorrow.”