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Campus Named ‘Tree Campus USA’


There are a lot of shady characters on the SUNY Cortland campus. Although most students have a passing familiarity with them, few know their real names.

They include accolade elm, amur corktree, black gum, the Colorado blue spruce and 49 other species of tree.

SUNY Cortland’s  dedication to establishing and sustaining a vibrant, urban forest as part of its effort to make the campus more “green” and sustainable recently earned the College recognition as a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation.

“For the campus, it shows a commitment to creating an urban forest that is healthy, and it recognizes the urban forest as being important for human health, energy conservation, pollution mitigation and water conservation too,” said Steven Broyles, a SUNY Cortland professor of biological sciences. “The College’s recognition in Tree Campus USA fits nicely into the campus’s sustainability.”

The campus is celebrating these efforts throughout April during SUNY Cortland’s annual Green Days celebration. On Friday, April 25, the day before Arbor Day, Broyles will lead a walking tour of trees on campus and the College will plant a flowering catalpa tree near the Miller Building.

“Our campus trees provide so much for the environment because, not only do they remove greenhouse gases, but also, they are simply beautiful organisms,” said senior biology major Elizabeth Fabozzi. “Being recognized as a tree campus is a huge honor in the tree conserving and preserving community. It demonstrates how the College cares about all of its biotic components, especially the trees.”

Fabozzi of Staten Island, N.Y., traveled with Broyles to Albany on March 27, where SUNY Cortland received its official recognition as a Tree Campus USA. They were honored with a specialized plaque and a flag at the ceremony.

The Tree Campus USA designation serves to honor colleges, universities and their leaders for promoting healthy trees, while engaging students and staff in the spirit of conversation, according to Mary Sweeney, program manager of the Arbor Day Foundation.

Created six years ago in 2008, the prime focus of the Tree Campus USA program was to help higher educational institutions around the country establish and sustain healthy community forests. Six years later, the program, supported with help from Toyota, has upheld that pledge, according to the official Arbor Day Foundation website. Campus participation has grown from 29 campuses to 192 campuses, from 5,867 trees to 41,808 trees, from $5 million in investment to $27 million and from 582,650 active student participants to more than 2 million.

To earn this distinction, SUNY Cortland had to meet the five core standards for sustainable campus forestry  required by Tree Campus USA: Establishment of a tree advisory committee, evidence of a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for a campus tree program, an official Arbor Day observance and  sponsorship of student service-learning projects.

In the summer of 2012, four SUNY Cortland officials began the process by starting a Tree Advisory Committee. The founding members were Broyles; Nasrin Parvizi, the associate vice president of facilities management; David Horrocks, the assistant director of buildings and grounds; and Adam Levine, the data systems administrator for the physical plant.

The four solicited support from College President Erik J. Bitterbaum and begin the application process for Tree Campus USA. The advisory committee now comprises 10 members.

The committee organized service learning projects last year, including a Fall 2012 inventory of campus trees by Broyles’ tree biology class and his student interns.

“Two of the students presented posters on this project at Transformations Day last spring,” Broyles said. “These projects provide details on the diversity and ecological services, such as C02 sequestration, pollutant removal and energy savings, of the campus forest.”

Bitterbaum proclaimed a “lofty elm” near the Miller Building as the President’s Tree during the campus’ first officially celebrated National Arbor Day last April.

“The Tree Advisory Committee installed tree labels on more than 30 species of tree,” Broyles said. “These labels have education information on them and a QR code linked to a campus Web page where users can learn more about the species and access photographs,”

Some other of SUNY Cortland’s campus tree species include: dawn redwood, English oak, gingko, green ash, honey locust and – of course – the lofty elm, immortalized in SUNY Cortland’s historic alma mater.

“In addition to the wonderful aesthetic value of trees and green spaces, our campus forest removes atmospheric pollutants, cools the campus landscape during the summer and provides a buffer to bone-chilling winds in the winter,” Broyles said. “We are proud to have an urban forest of more than 1,500 trees representing 53 species on campus.”

 To learn more about the trees on SUNY Cortland’s campus, visit the College’s sustainability web page and follow the link to “campus trees.”

To learn more about the Tree Campus USA Program, visit its website.