The Latin word “arbor” means tree. Arbor Day, the last Friday in April, is a special day set aside for people to learn about trees and to plant trees in their communities. It is celebrated in all 50 states and many Canadian provinces.

Among pioneers that moved into the Nebraska Territory in 1854 was J. Sterling Morton, a journalist from Detroit who missed trees and recognized the need for trees for fuel, building materials, edible fruits, and to serve as windbreaks to keep the soil from blowing away. He was the one who proposed and then planned for a tree-planting holiday called “Arbor Day.” The initial date was set for April 10, 1872. More than one million trees were planted in Nebraska that day.

This year marks the 142nd anniversary of the first Arbor Day, and we continue to mark it by reflecting on the importance of conservation, promoting the value of trees in our lives, and renewing our commitment to tree planting and care.

Trees are vital to life on Earth. They sustain our soil, moderate our climate, provide dwelling places for creatures of many sizes, conserve our water, clean our air, cool our streets and homes, and smooth the edges of our lives. They take in and use carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas, for their growth and development. Also, each time we plant a tree we give to the world a new source of beauty, shade and oxygen. We plant trees to celebrate our hope for the future.

Jim Gilbert’s Nature Notes are heard on WCCO Radio at 7:15 a.m. Sundays. His observations have been part of the Minnesota Weatherguide Environment Calendars since 1977, and he is the author of five books on nature in Minnesota. He taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.