PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) - in partnership with Senator Jack Reed, Rhode Island Tree Council, National Grid, and the Newport Tree Society - held a special celebration today to mark the 129th anniversary of Arbor Day. A tulip tree was planted on the State House lawn, and 13 Rhode Island communities and institutions received awards as part of the National Arbor Day Foundation's Tree City and Tree Campus USA programs; urban forestry grants for 10 local communities were also announced.
"From our tree-lined streets to our historic parks, the beauty trees add to our environment is undeniable," said Governor Gina Raimondo. "Rhode Island is fortunate to have a wealth of green spaces that provide enjoyment for our families and help attract visitors to our state. Celebrating and conserving these treasures is important, and I encourage Rhode Islanders to get involved and participate in a tree planting on Arbor Day. It goes a long way in preserving our environment and ensuring our state remains a beautiful place to visit, live and raise a family."
"Healthy trees and forestlands are essential to our neighborhoods and communities. Planting trees helps grow our green infrastructure, and I am proud to work with DEM, Rhode Island Tree Council, and their partners to ensure we have healthy, vibrant tree canopy coverage in communities across the state," said Senator Reed, a member of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the U.S. Forest Service's budget.
Each year, Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday of April to mark the importance of trees to our environment, culture, and economy. The first Arbor Day was celebrated in Nebraska in 1872 with more than one million tree plantings. Rhode Island began celebrating the day in 1887. In addition to hosting the ceremonial tree planting this year, DEM announced 10 America the Beautiful: Tree Rhode Island grants, totaling $30,000. The grants, made possible by the U.S. Forest Service with matching local funds, will fund tree plantings and pruning, invasive plant removal, educational programming, and community master planning. To date, DEM has awarded more than $5 million in grants under this program.
City/Town Awards Bristol - $1,145 Cranston - $2,600 Jamestown - $4,000 Narragansett - $2,600 North Providence - $3,000 Portsmouth - $4,000 Providence - $2,850
Community Organization Awards Middletown Tree Commission - $2,000 Newport Tree Society - $3,900 Northern RI Conservation District - $3,905
In addition to these awards, several municipalities were recognized for their efforts to green local communities as part of the National Arbor Day Foundation's Tree City USA program: Barrington, Bristol, Central Falls, East Providence, Jamestown, Narragansett, Newport, Portsmouth, Providence, Warren, Warwick, and West Warwick. Salve Regina University was recognized for its participation in the Foundation's Tree Campus USA program.
"Trees are so deserving of a special day of honor," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "In addition to helping preserve and enrich our environment, they play an important part in supporting quality of life and beautifying our communities. I can think of few things more relaxing than sitting beneath a shade tree and connecting with nature. I'm proud of Rhode Island's long tradition of celebrating Arbor Day and protecting this treasured resource; kudos to the Rhode Island Tree Council and all partners involved in this work. One hundred years ago, our forests were being depleted, and now more than half of our state is forested. Tremendous!"
Since 1991, the Rhode Island Tree Council has worked cooperatively with DEM and other partners to sustain and improve Rhode Island's urban and community forests. As part of its 25th Anniversary this year, the Council is sponsoring events and tree plantings around the state.
"DEM has been with us every step of the way," said Doris Alberg, Chair of the Rhode Island Tree Council. "It helped us to form in 1991 and never looked back, providing us each year since then with much-needed technical and financial support to carry out our important mission. The Council is recognized today as Rhode Island's leading tree advocacy group. That distinction would not have been possible without DEM and its invaluable assistance."
Newport is the first city in the nation to host four professionally accredited arboreta: Newport Arboretum, Newport Mansions Arboretum, the Arboretum at Salve Regina and the National Museum of American Illustration Arboretum. As part of Arbor Day, the Newport Arboretum announced the statewide launch of RI Tree Register, an interactive mapping tool that uses crowdsourcing technology to assist people in accurately mapping and managing urban forests.
"We are excited to offer the Rhody Trees interactive map, which is an internet-accessible tool whereby citizens can actively engage in our urban forest simply by mapping the trees in their own backyard," said Tina Dolen, executive director of the Newport Tree Society. "Adding trees to this inventory creates a more accurate picture of the state of the forest, both public and private, and enables us to proactively manage our tree collection, heading off problems and planning and planting for the future."
For more information about DEM divisions and programs, visit www.dem.ri.gov. Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandDEM or on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) for timely updates.