The Arbor Day Foundation last week named the university a Tree Campus USA. The designation “shows how much UofL is committed to sustainability and managing one of our greatest campus assets, the campus forest,” said Aaron Boggs, assistant director, physical plant maintenance.
Belknap Campus has more than 2,500 trees. Criteria to be a Tree Campus USA, however, are not about the number of trees a university has, but rather what it does to take care of them and to involve students in protecting and preserving trees. To receive the designation, a university must have a tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures toward trees, an Arbor Day observance and student service-learning projects.
Maintaining UofL’s tree canopy is an important part of the university’s commitment to sustainability. In the past two years, the university has planted 300 new trees. It also has taken steps to protect campus ash trees from the threat of emerald ash borers, insects that have killed tens of millions of trees in the United States in recent years, Boggs said.
“Trees moderate summer heat and winter cold to help us reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, take carbon out of the atmosphere, generate oxygen, and help retain moisture,” said Justin Mog, assistant to the provost for sustainability initiatives.
UofL’s trees sequester over 45,000 metric pounds of carbon dioxide per year — putting their value at more than $7 million, according to research by biology professor Tommy Parker. He, graduate students in his research lab and undergraduate students in his environmental biology classes have cataloged all Belknap Campus trees and developed an interactive tree map and app.
“We’re proud of our beautiful, tree-lined campus and just as proud of our staff, students and faculty who are committed to keeping it that way,” said President James Ramsey.