The Rocky Mountain Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA/RMC) has awarded the University of New Mexico the prestigious Gold Leaf Community Landscape Beautification Award.  UNM was nominated for its student-led tree plantings held on campus earlier this year.  Dozens of students, staff, community members, and faculty were involved in planting ten diverse and underrepresented trees on campus. 

According to ISA/RMC, UNM was selected for this award because of “significant contributions in the fields of environmental protection, conservation, beautification, or other landscape activities, which have had a positive impact in promoting tree care and preservation.”

Beginning on Earth Day, and over the course of the week, 10 trees were planted across the UNM campus. The message for the week-long tree planting was, “Selecting and planting the correct, site appropriate tree is essential for the health of the environment,” said Bryan Suhr, supervisor for arboriculture for the Physical Plant Department (PPD).

In preparation for the tree plantings, the student participants were involved in the tree selection process and learned proper planting techniques. Key points included knowing the soil type, a tree’s susceptibility to insects and disease, the appropriateness of the tree in our local climate (hardiness) and its water requirements, and the mature size of the tree and its location to utilities.  “We only have one chance to get it right, but ample opportunities for error,” said Suhr.

Jeff Hart, retired superintendent of Parks at the City of Albuquerque, gave a presentation to the children at UNM Children’s Campus where an Emerald Sunshine Elm tree was planted.  He taught the children about the importance of trees and why trees should be planted.  They were also told about how trees grow and how to care for them.  The presentation was geared specifically for the five and six year olds in attendance.  “I have done this with thousands of elementary students throughout the years.  It was great seeing the enthusiasm of the children at UNM,” Hart said.

Mary Vosevich, the director of PPD, was supportive of PPD’s involvement in this event.  “UNM is a nationally recognized arboretum, and I felt that it was important to support Arbor Day in New Mexico in this way.  Part of our mission as the flagship university in New Mexico is community outreach.  This initiative is indicative of this effort and a natural extension of UNM’s sustainability core value.”

Plans are already underway for next year’s Arbor Day event.  Organizers are hoping to continue this event well into the future to ensure the long-term health of UNM’s arboretum.  “There are many open spaces and opportunities to plant more trees on campus every year,” said Suhr.

Special thanks to Biology Undergraduate Society (BUGS), Lobo SEEDS, Association of Student Landscape Architects, UNM Young Alumni Chapter, Sustainability Studies Program, Associate Dean Alf Simon, School of Architecture, Eric Bernard, Director of Landscape Architecture, Ben Wright, ISA certified arborist, and Erin Burtch, ISA certified arborist and graduate of the Master of Landscape Architect program.