As the nation’s trailblazer of the conservation movement during the Industrial Age, Theodore Roosevelt linked and compared the lives of the American people with the health and existence of our American forests.
Arbor Day officially began on April 16, 1872. This year’s 147th Arbor Day is a descendent of the original. In North Dakota, it’s the first Friday in May. In 1907, Roosevelt extolled Arbor Day, with a message for the nation’s school children.
“Arbor Day, which simply means ‘Tree Day’ is now observed in every state in our Union – and mainly in the schools. At various times from January through December, but chiefly in the month of April, you give a day or part of a day to special exercises and perhaps to actual tree planting in recognition of the importance of trees to us as a nation and of what they yield in adornment, comfort, and useful products to the communities in which you live.
It is well that you should celebrate your Arbor Day thoughtfully, or within your lifetime the Nation’s need of trees will become serious. We of an older generation can get along without what we have, though with growing hardship, but in your full manhood or womanhood you will want what nature once so bountifully supplied, and man so thoughtlessly destroyed, and because of that want you will reproach us, not for what we have used but for what we have wasted.
A people without children would face a hopeless future, a country without trees is almost as hopeless; forests which are so used that they cannot renew themselves will soon vanish, and with them all their benefits. A true forest is not merely a storehouse full of wood, but, as it were, a factory of wood and at the same time a reservoir of water.
When you help to preserve our forests or plant new ones, you are acting the part of good citizens. The value of forestry deserves to be taught in the schools, which aim to make good citizens of you. If your Arbor Day exercises help you to realize what benefits each one of you receives from the forests, and how by your assistance these benefits may continue, they will serve a good end!”
Dakota Datebook: Remembering Theodore Roosevelt is written and performed by Steve Stark. Funding provided by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.