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WMU among nation's first Tree Campus schools

March 4, 2009

KALAMAZOO--The National Arbor Day Foundation announced in January that Western Michigan University has been named the 12th Tree Campus USA institution in the nation and second such campus in Michigan.

The designation recognizes WMU for its dedication to campus forestry management and environmental stewardship. The honor, which was given to the University of Michigan in fall 2008, is similar to the Arbor Day Foundation's Tree City USA program. Both Kalamazoo and Portage, Mich., number among the nation's more than 3,300 Tree Cities.

The new program aims to foster the next generation of tree stewards by drawing national attention to colleges and universities that promote healthy forest management and engage their campus and local communities in effectively managing their campus trees.

"The Tree Campus USA program will have a lasting impact at Western Michigan University and throughout the country because it will engage students and local citizens to plant trees and create healthier communities for people to enjoy for generations to come," says John Rosenow, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation.

The Arbor Day Foundation, supported by a grant from Toyota Motor North America, launched the Tree Campus initiative Oct. 16, 2008. WMU met the required five core standards of tree care and community engagement in order to receive Tree Campus status.

The standards WMU had to meet were establishing a campus tree advisory committee, demonstrating it has a campus tree-care plan, demonstrating it dedicates annual expenditures to this plan, instituting a service-learning project aimed at engaging the student body, and being involved in an Arbor Day observance.

"There were a lot of requirements you had to meet and a lot of competencies your staff had to have" says Paul MacNellis, director of landscape services for WMU's Physical Plant. "We looked at that and said, 'We've been doing most of this for a long time,' so we applied for the designation."

MacNellis adds that the University has been celebrating Arbor Day for several years, but the day has always fallen during final exam week.

"We're pushing it up to April 17 this year to involve more folks. The new Tree Campus USA status will help us launch a more publicized event than in the past," he says. "Our Tree/Arboretum Committee will be spearheading several planned initiatives over the next several years to assure continued progress in our tree program. We've always approached the landscapes of campus professionally and with success. The committee will broaden the base of involvement to more of the campus and local community."

One of the commitments the University has made in conjunction with its tree plan is to develop a "Campus Tree Walk" for the WMU community and visitors to campus. Plans call for the University to open the walk during this year's Arbor Day celebration.

"We have more than 4,500 inventoried trees on campus that people can enjoy and assist in preserving. The Department of Geography and its students 'GPSed,' measured and cataloged them in 2006, and this data is being used by our Physical Plant to create the arboreal walking tour," MacNellis says.

"Our campuses have many fine tree specimens, as well as historic and champion-sired trees. Those selected to be on the walk will be mapped and labeled so people can not only enjoy them but also learn about them."

WMU's Tree/Arboretum Committee includes broad campus representation as well as one community representative--Todd Pryor, Kalamazoo city forester and a certified arborist. The campus members: students, Julie Feikens, Gini Pikaart and Tonya Tyria; certified arborists, Chad Avery, John Disbro, Darrell Junkins and Steve Root; faculty, Todd Barkman and Dave Lemberg; administrators, David Dakin and MacNellis.

Visit arborday.org/TreeCampusUSA for more information about the Tree Campus program. Learn more about the WMU Physical Plant's geographic information systems online.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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