CWC earns Tree Campus USA recognition

Trees in front of the Lowell L. Morfeld Student Center at Central Wyoming College. Wyotoday photo by Ernie Over

The Arbor Day Foundation has recognized Central Wyoming College as a 2019 Tree Campus USA ® for its sustained commitment to environmental stewardship and urban forest management on Jan. 21.

The Tree Campus USA ® program honors colleges, universities and their leaders for promoting healthy trees and a spirit of conservation. CWC achieved this status under the watch of Grounds Supervisor Stefan Petersen, who strives to create a more sustainable campus.

Petersen first heard about the program from the groundskeeper at Sheridan College who helped Northern Wyoming Community College District become the first Tree Campus in the state. Petersen wanted to gain the same honor for the CWC campus and its affiliated Alpine Science Institute. Because Petersen oversees more than 800 trees between both locations, becoming a Tree campus made sense.

“I thought it would be another good way to get unique recognition for the college,” Petersen said.

Qualifying institutions have to meet five core forest management standards. These include having a tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan with dedicated annual expenditures, hosting an Arbor Day observance and leading a student learning project. 

To meet these requirements, CWC’s student and faculty tree advisory board meets twice a year to help organize a tree care plan and budget. 

The campus also celebrates Arbor Day. Last year, Petersen and his crew used this day to teach the Student Ambassadors about tree planting and maintenance.

Although the majority of the planting happens on campus in the fall, Petersen said this year’s observance will include planting several trees. 

“We also normally try and get faculty and staff to help clean up campus,” he said. “And we help with the community garden.”

To complete the student learning project component of the program, Petersen worked with Computer Technician, Matt Herr, and several CWC students to create a virtual campus tour using drones. The tour includes Sinks Canyon footage of the largest recognized blue spruce in the state which measures at 12 feet 5 inches feet in circumference.  

As a whole, Petersen said becoming a Tree Campus required a team effort. 

“It was a big undertaking,” he said. “I had a lot of help from Matt, my crew and the tree board.”

As one of 385 US campuses to complete all five standards, Arbor Day Foundation Program Coordinator Lauren Weyers said CWC is working to solve major global challenges. 

“If ever there was a time for trees, now is that time,” she said. “Communities worldwide are facing issues with air quality, water resources, personal health and well-being, and energy use.”

Weyers’ insight on the impact of this achievement was echoed by the nonprofit’s President, Dan Lambe.

Tree Campuses and their students set examples for not only their student bodies but the surrounding communities showcasing how trees create a healthier environment. Because of Central Wyoming College’s participation, air will be purer, water cleaner and your students and faculty will be surrounded by the shade and beauty the trees provide. ” — Dan Lambe, Arbor Day president

In their efforts, CWC was one of the recognized colleges and universities to help invest more than $51 million in campus forest management last year. This supports the Arbor Day Foundation’s larger Time for Trees initiative, which aims to plant 100 million trees in forests and communities by 2022.

CWC is definitely doing its part and Petersen will continue his planting efforts. He received a $7,000 grant to collect a species identification, health and inventory of trees on both campuses.

“We’re trying to get more fall colors on campus,” he said. “In general, we want a better diversity of trees.”

CWC will receive Tree Campus USA ® recognition materials before the state Arbor Day on April 27. Petersen said he is grateful the program is acknowledging CWC.

“I’m a big tree guy,” he said. ”So this is just another thing to make people care about trees.”