Maria Mihalik is newsletter and supplements editor of Associations Now in Washington, DC.
A tree-planting mission in Idaho helps members, communities—and power companies.
It makes sense that Arbor Day would be a big deal for an organization like the Idaho Nursery and Landscape Association (unofficial motto: “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago; the second-best time is today.”). But for the past eight years, INLA has helped make Arbor Day a big deal for communities across the state as well.
Through its “Planting Idaho” campaign, INLA partners with the Idaho Department of Lands and several large utility companies to award $300 Arbor Day grants to cities so they can purchase and plant trees or shrubs. This year, 45 cities benefited from the reimbursement-style grants.
While the communities reap the trees’ environmental benefits, INLA members and the utility companies get something out of the effort, too, says Ann Bates, INLA’s executive director.
“The ‘ma and pa’ nurseries get customers coming in to purchase greenery, mulch, and fertilizer,” she says, and a chance to advise grantees about tree selection and care. The utility companies, which fund the grants, enjoy improved customer relations and can spread the word about the role trees play in energy conservation. The companies can also teach people about how to plant “the right kind of trees, in the right place.” (Tall trees growing beneath power lines are a problem for utility workers.)
The Arbor Day grant program was created 16 years ago by the Department of Lands. Since INLA got involved, the association has administered the project by helping with marketing, selecting grantees via lottery, and processing cities’ reimbursement requests. It also bestows an annual “Legacy of Leaves” award to the grant-winning city with the best Arbor Day celebration.
“Trees will repay the cost of planting them many times over,” says Bates.
[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled “Leafy Legacy.”]