Editorial: An open letter to Arbor Day Found.

Published 9:00 am Friday, April 9, 2010

Dear Arbor Day Foundation:

We came across a news release this week stating Albert Lea was “recognized by the nonprofit Arbor Day Foundation as a Tree City USA community for its commitment to urban forestry. It is the 16th year Albert Lea has earned this national designation.”

To this announcement we stand flabbergasted. It’s laughable. How?

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Does the Arbor Day Foundation have incredibly low standards for the Tree City USA designation? The standards call for a tree board or department, a tree-care ordinance, a comprehensive forestry program and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.

Apparently, tree planting is not one of the requirements of the designation. Also, it appears the ordinance a city has can be far outdated, like Albert Lea’s.

Where are the standards for modern ordinances and programs? Where are the calls for more trees? What true value is there in being a Tree City USA?

Albert Lea has cut trees and cut budgets for trees over the past four years. Promises of planting trees have fallen through. And we aren’t pointing fingers at the folks at the City Garage. We are betting that if City Hall changes its direction on trees, the City Garage will do as it asks.

In fact, we editorialized on this subject just last Sunday. We gave a Thumbs down. Arbor Day Foundation, please read:

“For about four years our city has been cutting trees without replanting them. Trees along the boulevard of streets have been cut for the sake of power lines and reduction in city maintenance. Trees along shoreline have been cut for the convenience of views (what’s a shoreline without trees anyway?). And the city required Green Lea Golf Course to cut down many trees for the sake of the airport. And we are sure there are good arguments and prudent reasons for cutting down each and every tree these past years. But we have done little to nothing about planting trees to make up for the loss. Any claim to being a Tree City USA would be far from true.”

What a coincidence.

We request the Arbor Day Foundation to take a second look at its standards.