Trees hold special place in hearts of Nebraskans

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Nebraska's new marketing slogan, "Visit Nebraska. Visit Nice" has met with some negative reviews, both from Nebraskans who prefer "The Good Life" and from Minnesotans who have long claimed "Minnesota Nice" as their own.

But it is true that Nebraskans do tend to be nice, thanks to their neighborly heritage and to the simple fact that there just aren't that many of us, especially places that aren't Lincoln or Omaha.

When something's in short supply, we tend to appreciate it more.

That's probably why J. Sterling Morton worked so hard to make the bare Nebraska Plains seem more like his native Michigan, using his post as editor of the Nebraska City newspaper, as Grover Cleveland's secretary of agriculture and other positions to advance the cause.

He saw to it that a million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first American Arbor Day, April 10, 1872. From there, it spread to Australia, Canada and Europe.

But nowhere are trees more appreciated than in their home state, which is still less than hospitable to many species, what with our short supply of rainfall, oppressive summer heat, bitterly cold winters -- and occasionally devastating hailstorms.

McCook has done its part, earning Tree City USA status for many years and using the city tree rebate program to encourage homeowners to plant the trees.

Our tree cred is expanding this week as McCook welcomes the Nebraska Arborist Association, Nebraska Nursery and Landscape Association and foresters from regional states for a meeting.

Hosting the gathering will be Bruce Hoffman of Common Scents, a certified arborist and tireless advocate of trees and tree care.

While they'll spend most of their time on organizational business, the public is invited to the Norris House, 796 Norris Ave., at 2 p.m. Thursday for a demonstration on the correct way to prune trees.

Three American Elms planted in the back yard of the Norris House will be trimmed.

Sen. George W. Norris was a tree advocate himself, championing the idea of planting a windbreak from the Canadian border to Texas.

Yes, Nebraskans enjoy their state as it is ... nothing is more beautiful than the rolling Sandhills when they are covered with green grass on a rainy year, or our own Republican River valley and Loess Hills to the north.

But we need trees around our homes and hills, and it takes some effort to replace trees lost to disease, fire and weather, as well as enhance the forests we have.

When it comes to our good life, a few more trees would be "nice" as well.

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