The University of Southern Mississippi’s efforts to advance a culture of sustainability continue to bear fruit, as it recently earned a Tree Campus USA designation. The Tree Campus USA program is the product of a joint partnership between the Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota North America, Inc. Universities and colleges whose leaders embrace tree conservation and engage students, faculty and staff in that same endeavor are eligible for the recognition.
During 2011, the Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota helped campuses throughout the country plant 30,000 trees, and Tree Campus USA colleges and universities have invested more than $22 million in campus forest management. The program began in 2008 and is supported by a grant from Toyota.
“This designation is a testament to our commitment to managing and protecting our tree population, which is central to the beauty of our campus,” said Southern Miss President Martha Saunders. “It is my hope that future generations of faculty, staff and students share this same commitment.”
Southern Miss met five core standards for sustainable campus forestry required for the Tree Campus USA designation, including:
· Establishment of a tree advisory committee
· Evidence of a campus tree-care plan
· Dedicated annual expenditures for its campus tree program
· An Arbor Day observance
· Student service-learning projects.
“Your entire campus should be proud of this sustained commitment to environmental stewardship,” said Arbor Day Foundation Chief Executive John Rosenow in a letter to Saunders congratulating the university.
The Arbor Day Foundation cites many advantages to a healthy tree population. In addition to aesthetics, trees also provide a vital component to campus infrastructure and landscaping; create a welcoming environment for students, faculty, staff and alumni; provide cool shade and quiet places for study or reflection; and keep the air cleaner and reduce cooling costs, among others benefits.
“Students throughout the country are passionate about sustainability and community improvement, which makes the emphasis on well-maintained and healthy trees so important,” said Rosenow. “Achieving Tree Campus USA recognition sets an example for other colleges and universities, and allows students a chance to give back to both their campus community and the community at-large.”
Among the leaders in helping the university secure the designation was Kenneth Rhinehart, an adjunct professor of environmental science at the university. Along with students in his Environmental Science (ESC 302) class, Rhinehart began an inventory in spring 2010 of trees on the Hattiesburg campus, where he says there are approximately 60 species of trees.
Rhinehart also serves on the university’s Tree Management Task Force, which serves as a resource for advisement and recommendation regarding the addition, removal and management of the university’s tree population.
“We’re a state gifted with a precious resource, and our campus is a fine example of that with a wonderful assortment of trees that enhance it aesthetically, environmentally and economically,” Rhinehart said.
More information about the Tree Campus USA program is available at www.arborday.org/TreeCampusUSA.