Designation Shows Butler University Doesn’t Just “Leaf” its Trees up to Nature

MALLORY DUNCAN | Arts, Etc. Asst. Editor

Butler University’s newest recognition will make people pause and think twice about the trees on its campus.

For the second consecutive year, Butler has been recognized as a Tree Campus USA. Out of the 55 campuses in Indiana, Butler makes up one of the eight college and university campuses that hold this designation.

To be accepted into the program, each candidate needs to fill out an extensive application. As part of the application, Butler permitted use of more than twice the amount of money that is recommended by the Arbor Day Foundation.

Each applicant must have a dedicated annual expenditure. The Arbor Day Foundation recommends the applicant allocate $3 per fully enrolled student. According to the website, Tree Campus USA participants usually allocate between $9-11.

Following that equation, if Butler gives $11 per student, they should allocate almost $51,500 toward the trees. But according to Dolan, Butler’s budget is $149,000, which is more than $31 per student.

“In terms of (universities) intentionally looking at what trees they have and managing them and being recognized, (Butler) is elite in that sense,” said Nate Faris, the director of community forestry at Keep Indianapolis Beautiful. Faris also serves on the tree board at Butler.

Tree Campus USA is a program of the Arbor Day Foundation. There are more than 200 campuses that are an official part of the program.

“We want future tree planters,” said Anthony Marek, director of communications for the Arbor Day Foundation. “We know that there are young people that care about sustainability activities.”

Rebecca Dolan, Butler’s Herbarium director, was the driving force behind Butler’s application to the Tree Campus USA program.

“I knew that Indianapolis was a Tree City USA. I thought Butler should be involved because we have such a beautiful campus and trees are such a big part of that,” she said.

Admittance into the program is based on five major standards that must be met. The first standard is that the applicant must have a campus tree advisory committee, according to the Arbor Day Foundation website.

The committee must have representatives from students, faculty, facility management and community members.

Secondly, the applicant must provide a campus tree care plan including information like guidance for planting new trees, maintenance of existing trees and removal of trees.

In addition to having a designated tree fund, campuses must have planned Arbor Day activities. This year, since Arbor Day is Friday, April 25, the university is combining Earth Day and Arbor Day celebrations the week of April 14.

Lastly, applicants must have a designated service learning project. Butler fulfills this requirement through an ecology class that counts as an Indianapolis community requirement.

“(The honor) connects us with a national organization that is promoting quality green space on campus,” Dolan said. “It makes people across the country aware of Butler’s physical beauty and the high quality of management on Butler’s campus.”

Not only does the honor create national recognition for Butler, but the trees themselves can also draw potential students in.

“There are lots of benefits to trees,” Faris said. “A big one is that they increase property values and they make places more attractive. People tend to value what is in the stores in a business district if they have more trees. That makes me think that a university or college campus (with more trees) will have more aesthetic appeal than campuses with nothing.”

Trees also bring to campus the Butler squirrels. Big trees in residential areas and on campus can support the squirrels, according to a study by Tim Carter, Center for Urban Ecology director.

“Without trees you wouldn’t have (squirrels) and wouldn’t be able to do that kind of research,” Faris said.

The Arbor Day Foundation collects personal stories of the impact tree planting has on a campus. Marek said they use these stories to paint a picture of the history of each individual campus.

“Young people talk about how it’s the first time they’ve felt like every corner of the campus was represented,” Marek said. “They talk about what mattered—that they all came together with a common goal to beautify their campus, to make a difference and to plant trees.”

That is the goal and wish of not only Butler, but the Arbor Day Foundation as well.  Faris said every campus should understand how beneficial trees are and how special being a Tree Campus USA is.

“Trees have some inherent value that can be hard to quantify,” he said, “but they can make a difference.”