Did you miss Arbor Day yesterday? MD’s 5 Million new trees didn’t!

04 April 2024- Governor Wes Moore proclaimed April 3, 2024 as the 141th annual Maryland Arbor Day celebration. Following tradition, Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Josh Kurtz presented tree seedlings to the members of the Board of Public Works at their meeting, chaired today by Lt. Governor Aruna Miller.

“One of the most important things about Arbor Day is people coming together to plant trees,” Secretary Kurtz said. “Thank you for your recognition and support of Arbor Day.”

The celebration comes as the Maryland Forest Service is preparing to ramp up tree plantings for the spring, marking the start of another amplified planting season of Maryland’s 5 Million Trees initiative.

The initiative, which has nearly surpassed half a million trees, has a goal of planting 5 million native trees on Maryland’s public and private land by 2031. The Maryland Forest Service is making preparations for a spring of even greater productivity, with about 100,000 trees scheduled to be planted in partnership with the Maryland Park Service alone and many other sites identified for plantings.

The Board of Public Works celebrates Maryland Arbor Day, April 3, 2023. From left to right: Maryland Forest Service Associate Director J.T. Bowers; Treasurer Dereck E. Davis, Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller, Comptroller ​Brooke E. Lierman, Maryland DNR Secretary Josh Kurtz, Maryland Forest Service Director Anne Hairston Strang. Photo by Kamil Williams, Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

“We have so much to celebrate this Maryland Arbor Day,” Maryland Forest Service Director Anne Hairston-Strang said, “but we also know how much more work there is to be done.”

To celebrate Maryland’s Arbor Day and mark the progress on tree planting, the Forest Service provided dozens of eastern redbud seedlings grown at the Ayton State Tree Nursery to Maryland’s Board of Public Works and the attendees of Wednesday’s Board meeting. Maryland Arbor Day is traditionally celebrated the first Wednesday in April each year, while National Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday of April each year, which falls this year on April 26. 

The emergence of spring is an important period for tree planting. As the weather warms, seedlings from the state nursery are ready to go into the ground in locations across the state. Maryland Forest Service staff have identified hundreds of acres for new tree plantings.

Though the Maryland General Assembly passed the Tree Solutions Now Act in July 2021, this past year was the first that all of the disparate planting data from around the state could be compiled to give a snapshot of progress towards the ambitious 10-year tree planting campaign. 

In just five growing seasons, Maryland has planted approximately 472,000 native trees that have been counted toward the 5 million goal. That represents a 20% increase from baseline planting estimates and is enough trees that, when mature, could cover an area the size of downtown Baltimore in leafy shade.

Not only is the rate of tree planting increasing across the state, but the diversity and number of communities the state is working with to plant those trees are expanding. With the help of new outreach specialists in the Maryland Forest Service and grant opportunities like the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s Urban Trees award program, trees are being added to the landscape where they will grow to have a tremendous impact on the local environmental quality and public health. 

Looking ahead, the Forest Service is expanding its outreach methods to private landowners and piloting new collaborative partnerships with the state’s health and education departments. These partnerships aim to achieve greater awareness about the role healthy trees and forests have on health and well-being.

As Arbor Day is a time to celebrate and reflect on the role of trees in our society, the Maryland Forest Service is using the holiday to acknowledge some of its hard-working staff who are shining examples of the organization’s mission to grow, protect, and manage the state’s forestry resources:

  • Fred W. Besley Forester of the Year: Jamie Weaver
  • Wye Oak Award for Distinguished Service: Romcesa Estep
  • Acorn Award for Early Professionals: Katherine Phillips
  • Technician of the Year: William “Buddy” Parler
  • Specialist of the Year: Anna Twigg

Throughout the month of April, hundreds of Marylanders, school-aged children, and community leaders will commemorate this century-plus old tradition with tree planting, education, and stewardship events. Anyone interested to find an Arbor Day activity in their area should contact forest_service.dnr@maryland.gov or consider donating a tree for a public area through the Gift of Trees program.

Individuals can play a part in reaching 5 million trees by planting their own trees and plotting the planting locations online, which registers the tree for the official count toward the 5 million tree planting goal, or can also reach out directly to Isaac Whitmore, DNR’s 5 Million Trees program supervisor, at isaac.whitmore@maryland.gov for more information about how to have trees planted at a specific property.