Fort McCoy News April 11, 2014

Arbor Day: McCoy to celebrate, plant trees April 25

BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

Every year in late April, many communities across America recognize Arbor Day — a day for celebrating and planting trees. Every day the Fort McCoy Forestry Office does more than think about trees — they manage more than 40,000 acres of tree-covered land.

Tree City logo

The installation Forestry program is part of the Directorate of Public Works (DPW) Natural Resources Branch. According to Forester Jim Kerkman, who leads the overall program, about 66 percent of Fort McCoy's 60,000 acres are forested.

"We have two full-time people on the Forestry staff, but it's really an installationwide effort in caring for our forests," said Kerkman, whose office also leads the installation Arbor Day observance each year.

Forestry Technician Charles Mentzel works with Kerkman on forestry initiatives. "We have a great Forestry program," he said. "The forestry program is in addition to the rest of the natural resources programs at Fort McCoy that provide much care and management for our environment."

Arbor Day founder J. Sterling Morton started the observance in the late 19th century organizing a statewide Arbor Day for Nebraska.

According to the National Arbor Day Foundation (NADF), Morton was a respected agriculturalist in his day and is widely known for his push to educate the public about updated agricultural and forestry techniques in the late 1800s. During the first Arbor Day, which was intended to raise awareness of forestry, an estimated 1,000,000 trees were planted.

Morton's first Arbor Day observance has grown to include the NADF establishment of the "Tree City USA" award. Communities that meet four core requirements can be designated as a Tree City USA recipient.

Fort McCoy officially has been a Tree City USA for the last quarter century.

"The requirements were established to ensure that every qualifying community would have a viable tree-management plan and program," Kerkman said.

The four requirements are maintaining a tree board or department, having a community tree ordinance, spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry and celebrating Arbor Day. The NADF and the National Association of State Foresters established the four standards.

Fort McCoy meets all four requirements through a service contract with a DPW contractor in managing an urban forestry program, establishment of Fort McCoy Regulation 420-34 — "Urban Tree Management," per capita findings rated through established post economic impact data, and the annual Arbor Day observance.

"Each year, Fort McCoy holds an Arbor Day observance — usually on the official Arbor Day in Wisconsin on the last Friday in April," Kerkman said.

The 2014 Fort McCoy observance is planned for April 25 at 9 a.m. near the post's old main gate. The ceremony will include planting trees, reading of the Arbor Day proclamation and presenting the Tree City USA award.

Children from the Fort McCoy Child Development Center will also participate, and a children's proclamation will also be read. All members of the Fort McCoy community are invited to attend.

The motto of the NADF, in part, is to "nurture and celebrate trees." Kerkman said not only is that motto mirrored in daily operations at Fort McCoy, the value of trees to the installation training and support mission is priceless.

"The trees and forests around Fort McCoy provide so many advantages to our training environment," Kerkman said. "It could be the beautification of our cantonment area or provide the real-world training environment our service members need as they practice for future operations. Trees at Fort McCoy also provide noise buffers for training events taking places at the ranges which, in turn, aids in being respectful to our neighboring communities.

"Trees are a natural part of our installation's environment, and will continue to be for years to come," he said.

For more information, call 608-388-2102.