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University recognized as Tree Campus

John Brown University was recently recognized as a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation for its commitment to effective urban forest management.

“Tree Campus USA recognition simply means that John Brown University has demonstrated a meaningful and measurable level of commitment to the proper planting, care and celebration of trees on our campus,” Travis Chaney, grounds foreman, said.

The University achieved the Tree Campus USA title by meeting Tree Campus USA’s five standards: maintaining a tree advisory committee, developing a campus tree care plan, dedicating annual expenditures for a campus tree program, observing Arbor Day and establishing a student service-learning project. Currently there are 254 college campuses across the United States with this recognition.

“Meeting the standards for recognition involved systematizing every aspect of our tree management: the way they are selected, pruned, protected during construction, budgeted for and
removed,” Chaney said. “This systemization will hopefully ensure that the University’s commitment to a healthy campus forest will outlive any single groundskeeper.”

While not a requirement for attaining recognition, Chaney has worked since fall 2015 to label at least one specimen from every species of tree on campus.

“It helps students to recognize that these trees they see as they walk to class aren’t just nameless sticks poking up out of the ground,” Chaney said of the tree labels. “They have names and serve important ecological, aesthetic and economic functions. Now you can walk up to one, scan the QR
code with your smartphone and instantly learn more about it.”

Emilie Asbeck, biology major and grounds crew work study student, has worked closely with Chaney in identifying, labeling, mapping and photographing the various tree species on campus. She is also the student representative on the University’s tree advisory committee. Asbeck said her work with tree labeling has been transformative.

“I have enjoyed this job tremendously, and it has expanded my love for trees and plants on a whole new level. Learning and observing this side of God’s creation has allowed me to see our Creator’s artistic, intricate and delicate works on a detailed level that has blown my mind in so many ways; it is very hard to describe,” Asbeck said. “This work study has actually been one of the major experiences that has helped me to discover my desire to become a botanist. I look forward to what our campus is going to do with our tree campus status and how we will grow and expand in these next few years.”

On April 5, students and staff gathered in honor of Arbor Day for a brief presentation about the tree campus recognition. Participants then planted trees across campus, including locations by the Berry Performing Arts Center, the Bill George Arena and the Cathedral of the Ozarks.

“We are very blessed with a beautiful campus,” Steve Brankle, director of facilities services and sustainability, said. “This should be one more thing to attract people to our campus.”

“As to why such a commitment to trees is important, I would say this: a commitment to trees is a commitment to the future,” Chaney said. “They are the very lungs of the planet. They filter pollutants from the air and the soil, reduce runoff into our streams, lower energy bills and provide food and shelter to any number of wild things.”