(BPT) – Apple computers, the rock band U2, “Rocky” and two national football teams – of all the things that turn 40 in 2016, none have transformed the American landscape as definitively and beautifully as the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City USA program. Since its inception with partners from the National Association of State Foresters and the United States Forest Service in 1976, the program has supported and recognized tree sustainability programs in more than 3,400 American cities, inhabited by more than 135 million people.
The thousands of Tree City USA municipalities meet core standards of sound urban forestry management, including:
• Having a tree board or department charged with caring for the community’s trees.
• Adopting a tree ordinance that provides clear guidance for planting, maintaining and removing trees in public spaces like parks and along streets.
• Spending at least $2 per citizen on a community forestry program.
• Observing Arbor Day with a formalized Arbor Day celebration.
“Meeting these core standards means a community is committed to keeping its trees healthy and public spaces green,” says Dan Lambe, president of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Everyone benefits when elected officials, volunteers and committed citizens make smart investments in urban forests. Trees bring shade to our homes and beauty to our neighborhoods, along with numerous economic, social and environmental benefits.”
Not only does the Tree City USA designation make communities beautiful, other benefits include:
• Homes with trees as part of their landscaping are worth more. A study by the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Station in Portland, Oregon found homes with trees between the sidewalk and street sold for $7,130 more, on average, than homes that didn’t have trees by the street. What’s more, neighboring homes see their home values boosted more than $1,600, even though the trees aren’t on their property.
• Trees make shoppers happy; a study published in the Journal of Forestry found surveyed shoppers viewed retail locations with trees to be more appealing than those without, and were willing to spend more for goods and services where trees were present.
• Due to their calming effect, trees are thought to help make neighborhoods safer, and multiple studies show communities with more trees have fewer incidences of violence.
• Trees can improve a community’s energy efficiency and air quality, control storm water runoff, reduce flooding risks and make public areas more beautiful and appealing.
Any community meeting the program’s four core standards is eligible to become a Tree City, and 16 of the current 3,400-plus participating communities are celebrating their 40th anniversary with the program.
The smallest tree city is Sibley, North Dakota with a population of just 28 people, and the largest is New York, with a population of more than 8.4 million. Ohio is the state with the most Tree Cities – 242. Every state has at least one Tree City.
Although 3,400 active communities are already Tree Cities, there is still work to be done. The Arbor Day Foundation’s website offers information, advice, resources and an online application form to help communities become a part of this 40-year success story.
To learn more about the Tree City USA program, visit arborday.org.