SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) — State Forester Calvin Mukumoto has proclaimed all of April as Oregon Arbor Month, allowing lots of time for commemorative plantings and other tree-related activities.
“Trees play an essential role in the lives of Oregonians,” said State Forester Mukumoto. “Living through the extreme heat of 2021 and the isolation of the COVID pandemic has brought home to all of us the importance of urban trees to provide shade and cooling, as well as contact with nature right in our own neighborhoods. This proclamation highlights those and the many other benefits that both rural and urban forests provide to the people of Oregon.”
Read the full text of the proclamation here.
Scott Altenhoff, manager of the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Urban and Community Forestry Program said, “Arbor Month is the perfect time to reflect on the contribution trees make to our physical, mental and emotional health, to the livability of our communities, to our safety, the quality and quantity of our air and water, and to our economy.”
Altenhoff said, “With extreme weather events becoming more common, more and more communities are recognizing trees for the role they play in moderating temperatures and slowing rainfall runoff and erosion.”
At the same time, Altenhoff said urban trees face a wide range of threats. “Urban trees in Oregon are at risk from intensifying development, new pests and diseases, such as emerald ash borer, Mediterranean oak borer and sudden oak death and more extreme weather events,” he said.
The non-profit organization Oregon Community Trees supported the move from a week-long to a month-long recognition of trees back in 2020. OCT President Mike Oxendine said many towns and cities during the pandemic had to cancel in-person tree celebrations.
“This year, people are getting creative and planning many tree-related activities throughout Arbor Month, including public dedications of Hiroshima peace trees that had to be postponed back in 2020,” he said.
Oxendine cited the April 29 dedication in Oregon City and the May 20 one in Klamath Falls as two examples of communities celebrating their peace trees, which were grown from the seeds of trees that survived the atom bombing of Hiroshima, Japan in August 1945.
More money for urban forestry is on the horizon
ODF’s Altenhoff said he’s encouraged that substantial new federal funding for urban forestry is expected by ODF over the next few years. “The additional funding from the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill will boost our capacity to help communities better manage and improve their urban forests. Whether it’s conducting a local tree inventory using free software linked to a statewide tree database, or banding together to secure long-term contracts for the growing of diverse trees now in short supply, cities and towns will be able to really make a difference.”
Altenhoff said a large share of the funding will be directed at helping historically underserved and marginalized communities, which often have less tree canopy than more affluent areas. “We will be able to help cities and towns start to make up for years of underinvestment in those areas,” said Altenhoff.
Altenhoff is also heartened by state legislation to earmark funding specifically for urban forestry for the first time. “If passed, Oregon will join other states which are investing in their urban forests so they continue to provide benefits to their people.”