You've probably driven through a city that has a prominent "Tree City USA" sign, or you live in one. But how does a city become a "Tree City" in the first place? Well, it has to meet four requirements. First, it needs to start a city Tree Board or department. Second, it needs to have a tree care ordinance. Third, it needs to have a community forest program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita. Fourth, it needs to make an Arbor Day proclamation and observance. In other words, these cities take tree planning -- planting trees, taking good care of them, then planting even more of them -- very seriously.
So how does your state rate on the tree friendliness scale? The Arbor Day Foundation knows. Here are some interesting tidbits from its 2008 report:
In 2008, there were 3,402 Tree Cities in the United States. In 1976, only 42 towns were designated as Tree Cities;
More than 138 million Americans live in a Tree City USA town or city;
The nation's largest Tree City is New York City. The smallest Tree City is Kaena Point STS, Hawaii;
In 2008, Ohio led all states and U.S. territories with 249 Tree Cities (go, Ohio!), followed by Illinois (191), Wisconsin (177), California (161), New Jersey (155) and Florida (142);
Puerto Rico had only one Tree City in 2008, the least of any state or U.S. territory. Also making the list were Washington DC (1), Hawaii (4), Alaska (8), New Mexico (9) and Vermont (10);
in 2008, Oklahoma had the highest per capita tree expenditure of any state at around $15/person, followed by Illinois (roughly $14/person), Washington DC (around $13.50/person) and Colorado (around $11.50/person);
Nevada spent the least of all 50 states at around $3.50/person;
The states with the biggest increase in the number of tree communities between 2007-08 were West Virginia (36% increase), Nevada (22%), Utah (22%), Connecticut (15%) and Alaska (14%);
The average per capita spent on trees nationwide was $7.65;
Tree City USA towns and communities have spent more than $1 billion to date on developing urban and community forests.
You can check out a .pdf of the full report here. Of course, these numbers don't reflect the full impact of the Great Recession. States could be spending less on trees now. But it's nice to see that they've been making an effort over the past few decades.
Another random tidbit: "Arbor" is the Latin word for tree. The word "tree" in Spanish is "arbol."
Happy Arbor Day!