Auburn receives 12th consecutive Tree Campus designation

Published: February 25, 2021

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Auburn University recently pushed its streak to 12 consecutive years of receiving the Tree Campus Higher Education designation, previously known as Tree Campus USA.

This year university arborist Alex Hedgepath and Auburn's Tree Care Team, including two new ISA-certified arborists, are expecting to add more than 100 new trees and 24 new species to help bolster Auburn’s canopy.

Pandemic or not, keeping the campus forest safe is their top priority and expanding its greenery is an additional priority.

“We plan to maintain the Tree Campus Higher Education designation by continuing to fulfill the five core standards required through Arbor Day,” Hedgepath said. “Last year, we were able to add three additional full-time members to the department solely devoted to tree care on campus. The future of tree care on Auburn’s campus is bright.”

Each year, the Landscape Services Department on average plants 100 trees, not including trees planted for capital projects. As part of the designation, an advisory committee helps make management recommendations for the trees located on main campus, more than 600 acres, comprising more than 8,500 trees that house more than four million pounds of carbon dioxide and remove thousands of pounds of carbon from the atmosphere each year. Expanding the canopy and diversifying the species located within it not only helps ensure the campus forest’s longevity but furthers wildlife resources and decreases storm water runoff. Hedgepath was selected as Auburn’s first university arborist in 2015. At that time, about 50 percent of campus trees were comprised of three species: crape myrtles, willow oaks and overcup oaks, when 5-8 percent is generally considered an ideal amount per genus in terms of disease outbreak resiliency.

“Our canopy is expanding, and this year we have hopes of further updating our campus inventory,” he said. “This will help us to process data and better manage our trees going forward knowing which areas of campus have the most demand for risk mitigation as well as which areas have the highest demand for canopy expansion by way of tree planting and soil remediation.”

The state of Alabama celebrates Arbor Day the last full week of February, culminating with a number of events on Saturday, Feb. 27, including a city of Auburn free tree distribution.

The Arbor Day Foundation changed the name of the Tree Campus program to Tree Campus Higher Education in 2020 to unify the various other programs under its umbrella, including Tree Campus K-12 and Tree Campus Healthcare.

Submitted by: Casper Wood