Earth Day, Arbor Day

April, 2014

Lincoln -- Last Tuesday was Earth Day; today is Arbor Day, at least in Nebraska, where the schools are closed in observance.

In honor of Earth Day and what it stands for, I planted a "Xerces Pollinator Dry Soil" mix of grasses and forbs into bare patches on our prairie. We raise bees and are concerned about the accelerating loss of pollinators of all kinds. The mix is from Prairie Nursery of Westfield, Wisconsin, which also offered a special customers' incentive on Earth Day; the proceeds are going to the Aldo Leopold Foundation, a worthy cause.

Aldo Leopold is celebrated in Wisconsin and throughout much of the country for his view of nature and specifically his "land ethic." Less appreciated is the fact that his philosophy grew out of Clementsian ecology whose founders, Frederic and Edith Clements, are all but forgotten. Until last year, Frederic Clements' ashes lay unmarked in Wyuka Cemetery in Lincoln. Now they are marked, crediting him as "by far the greatest individual creator of the modern science of vegetation."

For Arbor Day, a legacy of the Nebraskan J. Sterling Morton, I am planting twenty red pines as Scots pine replacements. The Scots pines are succumbing to pine wilt and must be removed as soon as they show symptoms.

My friend John Rosenow at the National Arbor Day Foundation is retiring this year after several decades of hugely successful leadership. As a young man, he created the foundation from nothing. Whenever we see each other we remember the day in Washington long ago when together we approached the U.S. Postal Service about a special postal rate for the foundation's mail-order catalog enterprise. The USPS up to then had been adamantly opposed. We both gave our best pitches; the outcome didn't look good. But fortune smiled on us that day when the deciding official told us he was from Nebraska, that as a child he had often been to Morton's home, Arbor Lodge, and he would do anything to help his fellow Nebraskans advance the cause of Arbor Day.