SDSU recognized as Tree Campus USA

Tony Gorder

Tony Gorder

SDSU is the first campus in the state of South Dakota to be recognized as a Tree Campus USA.

“It’s good stewardship,” said Dean Kattelmann, assistant vice president of Facilities and Services. “It shows we do care about the environment.”

The Tree Campus USA is a program that was started by the Arbor Day Foundation in 2008 as a spin-off of the Tree City USA program. According to the official Web site, the program recognizes campuses that effectively manage their campus trees and develop connectivity with the community beyond campus borders to foster healthy, urban forests. They also strive to engage their student population and utilize service-learning opportunities centered on campus, community and forestry efforts.

John Ball, professor of forestry, helped organize SDSU’s efforts to be recognized as a Tree Campus USA. Ball has worked with communities in South Dakota with Tree City USA.

“I hope our Tree Campus USA designation will focus more attention and resources to care for the ‘green’ infrastructure of campus,” said Ball.

Holly Tilton, president of the SDSU Sierra Club, was pleased with the recognition, as well as the trees on campus.

“I think it is really great – to know that SDSU is being recognized for its tree-related efforts is very encouraging,” said Tilton. “SDSU does a great job of saturating the campus with beautiful foliage but not too many that you are afraid to walk at night.”

Campuses that wish to be recognized must apply and meet the five Tree Campus USA standards. The first requirement is to have a Tree Advisory Committee comprised of faculty, staff and students.

“The Tree Advisory Committee is an expansion of the long-standing Landscape and Site Subcommittee to the Building and Grounds Committee,” said Ball. “We have been meeting over the years to consider changes to the SDSU landscape from construction projects that may impact existing plantings to reviewing new landscape proposals.”

The second standard is a campus tree care plan. According to Ball, SDSU has had a care plan for more than a decade to provide guidelines for tree maintenance activities like pruning and support systems, along with procedures for tree removal and protection during construction.

Campuses in the Tree Campus USA program must have annual expenditures dedicated to the tree program. SDSU currently sets aside $3 per student.

“This is not limited to tree planting expenses but all the expenses associated with caring for the campus grounds, including pruning, pest management, fertilizing and irrigation, among other tasks,” said Ball.

Campuses must also have service learning projects. SDSU has had such projects for more than a decade, said Ball.

“The grounds at SDSU have served as an opportunity for students in our horticulture and landscape programs to prepare planting designs, establishing trees and shrubs, and caring for the mature trees,” said Ball. “Anne Fennell’s Introduction to Horticulture class is responsible for the majority of the trees planted on campus during the past 15 years. Kim James’s Survey of Horticulture course has assisted with many of our recent plantings.”

The final requirement that must be met is having an observance of Arbor Day on campus.

SDSU was not eligible last year since there was no official observance of Arbor Day, said Kattelmann. This year, however, SDSU is transplanting two oak trees – a Heritage oak and a Regal Prince oak – from the Rotunda Green area, where the new dorms will be located, and moving them to the new landscape at Woodbine Cottage.

“We’re very environmentally conscious,” said Kattelmann.

With all the construction, a great deal of thought goes into deciding which trees will have to be removed and how removal can be avoided, Kattelmann said.

“We’re very selective [in which trees have to be removed due to construction],” said Kattelmann. “We try to save as many trees as we possibly can.”

Ball said there are more trees planted than removed each year.

“In any given year, we expect to have to remove 20 to 30 trees due to Dutch elm disease, storm damage, new construction or other stressors,” said Ball. “We usually try to plant at least double that number, often three times that number.”

With over 2,000 trees on campus, SDSU continues to plant trees for diversity, said Ball.

“Because of our efforts to diversify the campus plantings, we have more than 40 genera representing more than 100 different species. While the grounds are a university campus, we are actually a large arboretum with one of the most diverse tree plantings in the state,” said Ball.

Both Kattelmann and Ball agreed that Tree Campus USA recognizing SDSU was a step in showing people how much thought and care is taken when it comes to the trees on campus.

“Many people don’t realize what’s done on campus,” said Kattelmann.

Ball agreed.

“Too often people think that all that happens is tree removals without understanding why that particular tree is being removed or the number of new trees and shrubs that appear each year,” said Ball. “I think [Tree Campus USA] is an excellent means to show the campus community the efforts made on this campus to care for our trees and shrubs.”

Ball hoped that this recognition would lead to more people paying attention to the trees on campus as well.

“Most students probably have not taken notice of the trees on campus. I hope this attention will have them take a little time to appreciate the trees on campus,” said Ball. “We have some outstanding specimens from the large Scots pine to the west of Agriculture Hall to the majestic oak on the south side of HPER.”