Tree Campus USA is a program run by the Arbor Day Foundation that helps colleges and universities and universities around the USA establish and sustain healthy community forests. It's basically the school version of the better-known Tree City USA. Tree Campus USA requires that schools meet five standards for recognition:
- Campus Tree Advisory Committee
- Tree Care Plan
- Tree Program with Dedicated Annual Expenditures
- Arbor Day Observance
- Service Learning Project
There are many benefits to becoming a Tree Campus USA. Here are five of the most important:
1. Student and Community Engagement
The requirements for an Arbor Day observance and service learning project present an opportunity to get students involved with the care of campus trees. Tree plantings are a popular choice for both, but other projects could include a tree inventory, tree benefit tagging or small tree pruning/mulching. Involving students helps improve their appreciation for campus trees and their care requirements, and may help gain support for including trees in the campus budget.
A tree benefit tag.
Image courtesy www.cityofvancouver.org
2. Cost:Benefit Improvements
It would difficult or impossible to efficiently budget for tree care activities if a current budget is not known. Tree Campus requires a school to determine how much they are currently spending on caring for their trees. By analyzing their tree care budget, a campus can determine inefficiencies to better spend the money currently set aside for trees. A school can also be more likely to receive grant funds from various funders if tree expenditures are known. The program suggests a goal of $3 per student, but this is not required.
Environmentally aware students, faculty and staff may be attracted to a school if they see that management cares for natural assets such as trees. Caring for trees can also help lead to certification through programs such as LEED, STARS and SITES. Such certifications can further enhance marketability of a school as sustainability-oriented.
4. Improved Management
Tree Campus requires the creation of a tree care plan. While this doesn't have to be overly comprehensive, the more detail a school puts into its creation the better. The plan should detail such practices such as prohibited species, goals and targets, damage assessment and tree preservation. Simply by going through the process of creating a plan, a school may become more aware of the benefits of comprehensive tree care. Hopefully, standards and policies created as part of the plan will be made enforceable by the school.