Achieving Tree City USA status

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Arbor Day Foundation announced this week that 125 communities in Michigan have earned the “Tree City USA” stamp of approval for their efforts in 2013.

Norway is included on this year’s list.

Marquette has held the honor for 33 years, Escanaba for 14 years, and Gladstone for five years. This is Norway’s first year.

Norway should be proud.

Being named a Tree City USA will allow Norway to display “Tree City USA” signs and use the designation to apply for certain grants.

“It positively reflects what we’re doing in our parks and recreation programs in general,” Norway City Manager Ray Anderson said.

The Tree City USA program is a national program that provides the framework for community forestry management for cities and towns across America.

Communities achieve Tree City USA status by meeting four core standards of sound urban forestry management: maintaining a tree board or department, having a community tree ordinance, spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry and celebrating Arbor Day.

Participating communities have demonstrated a commitment to caring for and managing their public trees, said Arbor Day Foundation officials.

Together the more than 3,400 Tree City USA communities serve as home to more than 135 million Americans.

City Manager Anderson said that the city’s tree care initiatives began about 2006.

At that time, Norway had started to lose many of its trees to oak wilt, gypsy moth infestations, and drought, he said.

With the help of funds from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Curtis J. Brackett Memorial Fund, and the Plum Creek Foundation, Norway was able to develop an urban forestry program. Projects included hiring a forester, building a nursery, and purchasing a tree spade and related equipment.

It is important to note that no community is excluded from the Tree City USA list because of size.

Small towns, townships, villages and big cities have seen the benefits of participation in the Tree City USA program, Arbor Day Foundation officials said.

Participation in the Tree City USA program helps residents feel good about the place they live and work.

Annual recognition shows visitors and prospective residents that trees, conservation and the environment are an important part of life in the community, Arbor Day Foundation officials said.

Pride in public trees also leads to more engaged residents and better care for new and existing trees on private property.

Escanaba is a Tree City. Marquette is a Tree City. So is Norway, Gladstone, and Marinette, Wis.

So why isn’t Iron Mountain or Kingsford on the list?

Iron Mountain-Kingsford has plenty of forestry-related businesses, and the people are passionate about trees and nature.

Some of the tree-lined streets here are as picturesque as any in the U.S.

There are more than 3,400 communities in the U.S. that have earned the Tree City USA designation.

Let’s encourage Iron Mountain and Kingsford officials to take steps to join the ranks of Tree City USA. We believe it would be worth the effort.