Celebrating Arbor Day: A conversation with Dan Lambe

April 26, 2024, 6 a.m. ·

Dale Johnson

DALE JOHNSON: Happy Arbor Day, Dan.

DAN LAMBE: It's great to be with you. Happy Arbor Day to you.

JOHNSON: We last talked in January of 2022, when you were named only the third CEO of the 50-plus-year-old Arbor foundation. So I am curious, between then and now how much greener has our planet become?

LAMBE: I am pleased to report that we are continuing to plant millions of trees every single year at the Arbor Day Foundation, in cities and towns and in forests all around the world. And we've got an amazing team of staff at the Arbor Day Foundation who are helping to make that happen to our members and our partners. And we are making Nebraska greener. And we're working in 50 countries around the world planting trees.

JOHNSON: A couple of things getting my attention this week, Dan, first is you came out with a couple of Op Ed pieces. I found one in US News and World Report, where you detailed why trees and forests are more versatile and cost effective to address climate change compared to technological climate solutions. Could you break that down for me?

LAMBE: You know, we all learned at an early age that trees are good for us. We learned in third grade or fourth grade that trees pull carbon from the air and help to clean our water supplies. They do so much for us. But we're facing real challenges, we need to remove carbon from the air to address our climate crisis. And all the research from pretty much every scientist out there points to trees and forests as the most scalable, and most affordable way to help do this in an aggressive and urgent manner. It doesn't mean we shouldn't be doing other strategies. Trees aren't a silver bullet, we can't plant our way out of our climate challenges. But we know that planting trees does way more than just remove carbon. It helps to create habitat. It helps to clean our water supplies. It helps to shade our homes. Trees do so much for us, all the CO2 benefits associated with trees just bring so much value to our forest lands, to our landscapes and to our cities and towns that is the time for trees.

JOHNSON: And that links us to a new report that also was released this week with the cooperation of the Harris organization, talk about the canopy report, what was it about and share some findings?

LAMBE: Well, we know trees are important. But we're the tree people. So we thought we better check with everybody else. And so we worked with the Harris Poll to do an independent survey of 1000s of Americans to see their opinions on trees. And there was loads of information that we learned. But at a really high level, we found that people get it. More than 90% of Americans talked about how trees are not just nice to have. They're a must have. And they want to see us planting more trees to recover from fires and hurricanes and other losses where the trees are coming from. What we also learned is that people are happier near trees when 90% of Americans talked about how their health and mental wellness scores are better when they're near trees and in green space. And so they want more trees and more parks. And unfortunately, a lot of folks have to drive to parks in their communities. That's part of why we're helping to plant more and more trees in neighborhoods, parks and cities, to create more green space. And we also learned that people are nervous. People are nervous about climate, there's a thing called Climate dread. And more than 60% of Americans have experienced some form of climate change, impact themselves, whether it's fire, extreme heat or otherwise. And they're looking for something they can do. And there's one thing that everybody can be a part of to make a difference. And that's planting trees.

JOHNSON: As I mentioned today, of course, is Arbor Day it launches a weekend long celebration focused on Arbor Farm in Nebraska City. How do you celebrate Arbor Day, Dan?

LAMBE: Well, I always try to be planting a tree but you can about imagine I get pulled in a lot of different directions on Arbor Day. This year, I am going to be a part of multiple Arbor Day celebrations. But there's probably no better place to be celebrating Arbor Day than in Nebraska City at Arbor Day Farm, the home of Arbor Day where it all started back in 1872. And Nebraska City does such a great job of engaging the community through parades and tree distributions and celebrations. It is one of those magical places to be during the Arbor Day holiday. But really anybody can be a part of it, whether they're planting a tree, mulching their trees, pruning their trees, or just kind of taking a walk and appreciating the trees in their neighborhood.

JOHNSON: Dan is talking to me today from New York City. what is the Arbor Day look like in New York City.

LAMBE: Well, you know, New York City loves their trees. It's a world class city. Tree-wise they are always planting trees and managing their forests, and it's not just in Central Park. We're planting trees today in Queens in an area that is depleted of trees and it's extremely hot. In these communities were planting about 100 trees to bring shade, healing and comfort to this neighborhood in Queens which otherwise is a pretty cement-based part of town. So they love their trees in New York City just like they do in Boise, Boston, Baton Rouge and Los Angeles. People love their trees everywhere and everyone's celebrating Arbor Day today.

JOHNSON: Dan, back to where we began. Happy Arbor Day to you.

LAMBE: You also it's great to be with you again.

JOHNSON: Dan Lamb joining me from the Arbor Day Foundation. I'm Dale Johnson for Nebraska Public Media News.