Nebraska families bring their children to Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City to enjoy the great outdoors, walk along the hiking trails, and play in the 50-foot-tall treehouses. It’s one of Nebraska’s many treasures – a place to take in the wonders of nature. It’s also a place of history.
The land where Arbor Day Farm is today was originally owned by J. Sterling Morton. Morton planted orchards and many different species of trees on this land to show others the importance of trees and conservation. Importantly, he is also well-known because he founded Arbor Day, which has become a cherished Nebraska and national tradition.
Nebraskans celebrated the first annual Arbor Day on April 12, 1872. Businesses and organizations throughout the area participated and awards were given to those who planted the highest number of trees. It was reported that over one million trees were planted on that day alone.
Soon after, word swept throughout the country of this unique celebration. States quickly adopted their own Arbor Day resolutions and people began to celebrate in their own communities. Nearly 100 years after the first celebration in Nebraska, President Nixon issued a proclamation to establish Arbor Day as a national holiday.
On April 27, 2018, our nation will once again observe Arbor Day, a tradition that first took place nearly 146 years ago and still brings Americans together today. I hope you will celebrate and keep the tradition alive by planting a tree in your community.
The more I travel our state, the more my appreciation grows for the abundant land and natural resources of Nebraska. From Scottsbluff to Omaha, we are blessed with wide open spaces, flowing rivers and abundant farm land.
Nebraskans also understand the importance of protecting the resources entrusted to us and practicing conservation. On our family ranch in the Nebraska Sandhills, we have planted thousands of trees. These wind breaks provide protection for livestock during severe storms. They also offer shelter for wildlife and we are very fortunate to have abundant wildlife on our ranch through positive range management practices.
Every year, Nebraska Cattlemen present the Nebraska Leopold Conservation Award to families who have demonstrated outstanding land stewardship and management. This year, the award was presented to Jim and Lora O’Rourke, who ranch near Chadron. For nearly 60 years, the O’Rourke family has applied conservation practices that stabilized the health of their soil, and contributed to bringing a broad range of trees and wildlife to the area. Through these techniques, the family has been able to develop a better habitat for fish and wildlife in and along Chadron Creek.
The O’Rourke’s lifelong commitment to conservation and their hard work to preserve the land they live on is impressive. They are also working to pass on their knowledge of stewardship practices to others.
By committing to preserving and protecting our land, we can help ensure Nebraskans are able enjoy our state’s beauty for generations to come. Whether you are at Arbor Day Farm or in your own backyard this year, Arbor Day is a chance to celebrate our country’s diverse landscapes and renew our commitment to making responsible choices for the future.
Thank you for participating in our democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.