It is both surprising and fitting that Arbor Day was born on the treeless prairie of Nebraska. Pioneer J. Sterling Morton and his wife moved to the Nebraska territory from Michigan in 1854. Morton and his fellow pioneers not only missed trees for their aesthetic value but also for the very practical purposes they served as windbreaks, shade givers, soil securers, and fuel sources. As the editor of a Nebraska newspaper, Morton soon began espousing the value of trees to his fellow pioneers, encouraging both individual and civic participation in tree planting campaigns.
In 1872, the State Board of Agriculture declared April 10 Arbor Day, a day set aside “to plant trees, both forest and fruit,” according to Morton. More than one million trees were planted on that first Arbor Day. Today the holiday is celebrated in all fifty states and in different countries around the world.
The spirit of Arbor Day is encapsulated in this quote from the Arbor Day Foundation:
“Most holiday celebrate something that has already happened and is worth remembering…. Arbor Day reflects a hope for the future. The trees planted on Arbor Day show a concern for future generations. The simple act of planting a tree represents the belief that the tree will grow and, some day, provide wood products, wildlife habitat, erosion control, shelter from the wind and sun, beauty, and inspiration for ourselves and our children.”