University of the Cumberlands celebrated Arbor Day this year by planting trees on land that was recently converted from barren surface-mined land into cross-ripped future forestlands.
Cumberlands purchased the land – 102 acres located off State Route 92 – several years ago. With the addition of the 50 new trees planted by Cumberlands staff and students to celebrate Arbor Day, approximately 74,250 trees have been hand-planted on the land.
Although Arbor Day is held on April 30, Cumberlands hosted the tree-planting event early to allow students to participate before leaving campus for the summer. The event was organized by Cumberlands’ Campus Tree Committee, which has hosted past Arbor Day and Earth Day celebrations in the past and coordinated with the university’s departments of operations and maintenance to replace exotic trees on campus, once they die, with species of trees native to Appalachia. To date, Cumberlands has planted approximately 70 trees from approximately 10 native species on campus. The committee has been instrumental in helping Cumberlands earn the title Tree Campus USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation for four consecutive years.
Dr. Todd Yetter, biology professor and head of the Campus Tree Committee, said, “We made a commitment to plant only Kentucky native species, and already the trees planted have changed the feel of campus. I would like to thank our University President Larry Cockrum and Director of Operations Travis Wilson for their vision and support; Mr. Patrick Angel, who has a 25-year career in the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM), and Mr. Michael French, from Green Forest Works, for their drive and expertise; and Dr. Sara Ash, biology professor and Cumberlands alumna, who spearheaded the initiative to become a Tree Campus USA member.”
According to the Arbor Day Foundation’s website, trees not only clean air and water, but they also slow climate change, ease poverty and hunger (via fruit trees, for example), and prevent species loss. Besides that, statistics from the National Wildlife Federation say trees absorb so much carbon dioxide that, if all available spaces along U.S. streets had trees planted in them, the country could save up to four billion dollars in current energy costs.