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2020 Arbor Day Awards announced

Staff Writer
Syracuse Journal-Democrat

Ahead of the 148th observance of Arbor Day, Foundation celebrates leaders of the charge to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees

LINCOLN, Neb. (April 21, 2020) - The Arbor Day Foundation has announced the recipients of the 2020 Arbor Day Awards, recognizing five individuals and organizations for their exemplary tree planting and environmental practices. Since 1972, the Arbor Day Foundation has recognized the inspiring and life-changing work of leading environmental stewards and tree planters through the annual Arbor Day Awards. Award winners from previous years include the late Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, the United States Forest Service and Verizon Communications.

The Foundation will present awards to this year's winners during ceremonies in their local community throughout 2020. Visit www.arborday.org/awards for more information.

The J. Sterling Morton Award: Larry Biles, Kansas State Forest Service

The J. Sterling Morton Award recognizes an individual who has had a positive impact on the environment due to his or her lifelong commitment to tree planting and conservation.

Over the course of his 52-year career, including 11 years as Kansas State Forester, Larry Biles demonstrated a deep commitment to tree planting and conservation. Key accomplishments include overseeing the Conservation Tree Planting program, which planted more than 2.5 million trees across Kansas, and securing a $13 million Regional Conservation Partnership Program grant for the Kansas Forest Service – the largest grant ever received by the organization.

The Trailblazer Award: Gabriela E. Lopez, Million Trees Miami

The Trailblazer Award recognizes an individual under the age of 35 who has demonstrated leadership in forestry, community forestry, research, or tree care during the past five years.

As the Community Image Manager for Miami-Dade County's Neat Streets Miami board, Florida, Gabriela Lopez manages the board's Million Trees Miami initiative, created to achieve a 30 percent tree canopy cover for Miami-Dade County. Under Gabriela's leadership, Neat Streets Miami has directly planted more than 9,500 trees and given away 6,225 free trees since 2017. Previously, the initiative was planting fewer than 100 trees each year.

The Headwaters Award: Upper Susquehanna Coalition

The Headwaters Award celebrates innovative programs -- in rural or urban areas -- that support the improvement of water quality and quantity through forestry activities.

A coalition of 22 soil and water conservation districts in New York and Pennsylvania, the Upper Susquehanna Coalition (USC) addresses water quality issues in the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay. USC's buffer team, which promotes the restoration and long-term functionality of the Upper Susquehanna's riparian areas and riverbanks, planted more than 10,000 native trees in 2018 alone. The same year, USC engaged more than 100 student volunteers, ranging from elementary school to college, and educated more than 1,500 people on the importance of planting trees for water quality.

The Champion of Trees Award: City of Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The Champion of Trees Award recognizes a government entity, community-based organization, or partnership among such groups that has demonstrated exemplary leadership to develop and implement new policies and practices for municipal tree planting and care, natural area stewardship, or arboriculture.

The City of Toronto, Ontario, has one of the largest urban forestry programs in Canada, having planted more than 1 million trees since 2005. After undertaking its first tree canopy study in 2008, the City invested $605.6 million in its urban forest with the aim of increasing canopy cover and providing equitable access to trees to all Torontonians. Currently, the City engages residents, non-profits, and community groups through its community grants and volunteer programs to plant more than 120,000 trees and engage thousands of volunteers each year. In early 2020, the Arbor Day Foundation recognized Toronto as a Tree City of the World for its leadership in urban and community forestry.

The Friend of the Forest Award: Bank of America

The Friend of the Forest Award recognizes a corporation and its leaders for its commitment to using trees and forests to achieve corporate sustainability goals and targets.

Bank of America has long recognized the value of trees – from reducing greenhouse gas emissions and heat islands, to storm water management and traffic calming. In 2019 it partnered with the Arbor Day Foundation to create the Community Resilience Grant program. This program aims to address tree equity and enhance community resilience in underserved communities. Bank of America is also a member of the Foundation's Evergreen Alliance, a group of corporate partners dedicated to helping the Foundation plant 100 million trees and inspire five million tree planters by 2022.

Additionally, it has worked with American Forests' Community Re-leaf program, supporting efforts to expand tree canopies, and has created consumer-facing tree planting campaigns in partnership with The Nature Conservancy.

About the Arbor Day Foundation

Founded in 1972, the Arbor Day Foundation has grown to become the largest nonprofit membership organization dedicated to planting trees, with more than one million members, supporters, and valued partners. During the last 45 years, more than 350 million Arbor Day Foundation trees have been planted in neighborhoods, communities, cities and forests throughout the world. Our vision is to help others understand and use trees as a solution to many of the global issues we face today, including air quality, water quality, climate change, deforestation, poverty and hunger.

As one of the world's largest operating conservation foundations, the Arbor Day Foundation, through its members, partners and programs, educates and engages stakeholders and communities across the globe to involve themselves in its mission of planting, nurturing and celebrating trees. More information is available at arborday.org.