Accepting the Forest Chiefs Honor Award

Last month I had the privilege of visiting Washington D.C. to accept the Chief’s Honor Award—the highest awards given out by the U.S. Forest Service to publically recognize exemplary achievements in Forest Service programs that contribute to the Service’s strategic goals.

The Engaging Urban America award—the award presented—recognizes Forest Service individuals, work units, partnerships, or groups that have demonstrated major achievements in promoting conservation education, community “greening” efforts, and management of urban forests and youth opportunities to volunteer in urban forestry activities in their neighborhoods.

As Chief of the USDA Forest Service Tom Tidwell and others spoke of the award I was taken by the power and influence of partnerships. This was an achievement of federal, state and local collaboration. Public and private partners engaged to change the lives of children in Denver. It was a memorable experience to witness how Nature Explore, and more importantly, the challenge of connecting young people with nature has been embraced and championed by so many with a common goal. In this case, it was an opportunity to recognize US Forest Service team members who are leading the way.

I accepted the award on behalf of the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation for our work with the Warren Village project. Warren Village is a program that helps motivated, previously homeless single parent families to move from public assistance to personal and economic self-sufficiency through subsidized housing, on-site child care, educational guidance and career development.

The Certified Nature Explore Classroom at the Greta Horowitz Learning Center at Warren Village is unique for multiple reasons. The Center uses Creative Curriculum, a child-centered approach in which the children’s interests drive a variety of projects. The Center is located in downtown Denver, and although there is a public park close to the Nature Explore classroom at Warren Village, residents of Warren Village wouldn’t use it out of fear of their safety. This Nature Explore classroom gives mothers and children the comfort of security with the enjoyment of outdoor exploring.

This project was a collaboration of organizations, including the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado State Forest Service and Colorado Parks & Wildlife. The sponsored classroom illustrates the great work we can do when we come together.

Additionally, the outdoor space at Warren Village serves as a model of how communities can engage local partners. One example of its effect is in Philadelphia, where a second classroom is being created with the help of the Philadelphia Water Department, Philadelphia Horticultural Society and Philadelphia Forest Service.

It is meaningful to be part of something that is enriching lives through outdoor classrooms and inspiring to see where else our collaborations will lead us.

Last-minute Gifts That Make a Big Impact

Do you need a last-minute gift or two? Maybe the company holiday party snuck up on you or you just realized you accidently left Cousin Kathy off your gift list. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. The Arbor Day Foundation has you covered with last-minute gift options that make a lasting impact on the environment.

tic-mark-photo-rightWith Trees in Celebration, each dollar donated plants a tree in one of our National Forests. And you can instantly print a commemorative certificate at home to give to the recipient. They’ll love this gift that continues to give long after the holidays are over.

Holiday Give-A-Tree® e-Cards can be easily delivered via email, and each card plants a tree to help revitalize our nation’s forests. Simply select one of our gorgeous e-card designs and add a personal message. It is that easy!

e-give-a-tree-mark-photo-rightThis holiday season, instead of knickknacks or gift cards, plant trees for your friends, family, and colleagues. Last-minute gift giving has never been so simple—or so environmentally friendly.

There is still time! Shop Trees in Celebration and Give-A-Tree e-Cards from the Arbor Day Foundation today and give a gift they’ll remember for a lifetime.

Christmas at the Mansion: Timeless Traditions


This holiday season in Nebraska City, Nebraska, guests of Lied Lodge and Arbor Day Farm are invited to “Christmas at the Mansion,” a unique opportunity to experience what the holidays were like during J. Sterling Morton’s era. Arbor Lodge, the 52-room mansion, is decorated in its Christmas best and ready to help visitors get into the spirit of the season with vintage décor, special holiday-themed collections on display, tour hosts in period clothing, and other one-of-a-kind touches that make for a memorable wintertime visit.


Red poinsettias and Christmas greens flank the grand staircase at Arbor Lodge, J. Sterling Morton’s 52-room mansion in Nebraska City, Nebraska.

Christmas at the Mansion is available weekends through Dec. 20, 2015 — Saturdays from 10am to 5pm, with an exclusive after-hours look at the mansion also available from 6:30-8:00 pm; and Sundays, 11am to 5pm. Admission ranges from $4 to $10 per person.

The Morton Family regularly hosted dignitaries and well-known guests in their home, and the mansion was often a haven for close friends and extended family during the Christmas season — where music and laughter often filled the halls, where lavish meals were served, and where traditions were kept.                                                                                        

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The Morton Family and distinguished guests gathered at Arbor Lodge for lavish holiday dining, complete with Christmas crackers, similar to the ones shown here.

However – and perhaps not surprisingly – J. Sterling himself was vehemently outspoken against the practice of cutting down healthy trees for Christmas décor purposes. A November 1899 edition of Morton’s three-column weekly newspaper, The Conservative, railed against the tradition, calling it the “mutilation and destruction of the young pine forests,” and adding that “the future generations will want for lumber which these Christmas trees would have made.”

 Regardless of where you stand on the issue of real vs. artificial trees, if you find yourself in Nebraska City, Nebraska, this holiday season, the Christmas at the Mansion experience is one not to be missed. We welcome you to step back in time and see the magic of the holidays through the lens of this distinguished family, and take home some memories of your own.

Complete details about Christmas at the Mansion are available online here.


This Cyber Monday Shop The Arbor Day Foundation For Free Shipping


Cyber Monday is a great day! Why is it great, you ask? I’ll tell you! It is the one day out of the entire year you can sit in the comfort of your chair, sip your cup of coffee, and have great deal after great deal available right at your fingertips. Ten years ago the Monday after Thanksgiving was coined as “Cyber Monday” – in short, Cyber Monday is like Black Friday but you get to avoid all the crowds and cold weather and shop from the comfort of your computer. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a great day to me.

The Arbor Day Foundation has unique holiday gift options that give back. We offer Earth-friendly gifts for everyone on your list. Whether it’s tree planting in honor of a loved one, rain forest-saving coffee and chocolate, or an individually packaged evergreen, a gift from the Arbor Day Foundation can truly make a difference for our planet.

On Cyber Monday, be sure to add The Arbor Day Foundation to the list of web sites you shop for great deals and give your loved ones, friends, and colleagues a gift that has a lasting impact on the environment. Shop now for free shipping!

DIY: Decorating an Outdoor Christmas Tree, the Natural Way

The festivities of Christmas call for rambunctious family dinners and social gatherings with friends. The vibrant hues of emeralds, golds and ruby decked through the house and traces of eggnog and gingerbread truly bring the Christmas spirit to life. A common family tradition to kick off the season starts with decorating the family tree, which some consider to be the heart that brings it all together.


Photo from

While you’re probably familiar with the numerous benefits trees deliver by now, we’ll add one more benefit to the list: outdoor Christmas tree. Having evergreen trees in your front yard is convenient during the holiday season when you can take those natural pyramidal frames and dress them up in tinsel and lights that they don’t have the chance to flaunt all year-round. But what if this year, instead of tinsel, you decorated your tree in something a bit more au natural? Something that could give back to the environment?

Here are nine do-it-yourself decorating tips to embellish your outdoor tree that steer away from the traditional glitz and glamor but still make your home welcoming; it’s yet another way of bringing the family together and giving back to the environment, outside critters will thank you.

    • Spray paint pinecones: It’s a sure way to make them pop and still maintain the natural feel. Don’t forget to use a non-toxic spray paint.
    • Cinnamon walnut bundles: Cinnamon is great for decorating because it looks nice, adds aroma, and can be eaten by wildlife. There are numerous ways of using cinnamon sticks, one includes bundling three to four sticks together and stringing them with walnuts to create garland around the tree. Or hang them alone as ornaments, twine compliments it well.
    • Raisins, cranberries, figs: Use whatever dry fruit you have on hand and string them on wire around the tree to pair with garland.
    • Orange/lemon pomanders: This is a fun alternative to ornaments, cut slits around an orange or lemon and let it dehydrate, the crisp scent of citrus is refreshing, and the peels will easily break-down into the soil once you’re done through with your decorations.
    • Led lights: If you’re adamant on adding lights to your display opt for an LED option, they’re more energy efficient. Better yet, go for solar powered, you’ll save on energy costs and eliminate the hassle of cords.
    • Popcorn balls: Popcorn balls are fun and can easily be decorated with frosting. Birds and squirrels are also fans of the salty treat, so don’t be surprised if they pop up among unexpected guests.
    • Gingerbread cookies: Gingerbread is classic and it’s edible, so take advantage of its solid surface, whether it’s frosting the tops or cutting into shapes.
    • Apple slices: Cut thin slices of apple, let it dehydrate, and hang them around the tree.
    • Aluminum cupcake wrappers: If you’re still looking for that finishing touch, aluminum cupcake wrappers are a cheap way of adding some glitz. The reflections of aluminum will shine and the smooth finish should hold up against snow or rain.

As with anything, make it your own. Any of these ideas can be combined or used alone in decorating your outdoor tree. Best of all, cleanup is a breeze because most the items can be eaten by wildlife or used to make compost.

What other natural tips do you have in decorating an outside tree?

Spooky Cemetery Trees

Trees in a cemetery normally provide a calming and peaceful effect for visitors and passersby. But around Halloween, they take on a spookier air—casting eerie shadows, swaying and creaking in the wind, and providing plenty of fuel for the imagination as the sun sets.

Being a bit of a chicken, the whole idea of going into a cemetery on Halloween gives me the creepers. Especially if there are any remotely spooky-looking trees around. So here’s a few places you won’t find me tomorrow night.

Photo Credit: Tracy O (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Flickr

Photo Credit: Tracy O (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Flickr


Photo Credit: Katherine Owens (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit: Katherine Owens (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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And the foggy path for the win!


If you’re a little braver than me—or if you’re looking for a good scare—head on into the nearest well-treed cemetery. We’d love to see your pics on Instagram. Tag us @arbordayfoundation.

Boise Paper’s Project Up Event at Lindsay Street Park

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Before: Green space is untended and neglected.

Minutes west of Downtown Atlanta sits the English Avenue Neighborhood. This neighborhood has seen its share of tough years as the area with the highest crime rate in the city of Atlanta. The neighborhood lacks numerous community resources, including the absence of a single outdoor park… until now. And residents are hoping that their new park could make all the difference.

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Before: The area is neglected and full of pollution.

I recently attended one of the events that helped make the Lindsay Street Park possible: Boise Paper’s Project Up planting event. It was a wonderful experience. What was once a neglected and polluted space has transformed into a luscious green sanctuary in the center of one of the most precarious areas of the state.

We planted trees and shrubs in the park while children played on brand new playground equipment, installed just a few days before the event. (check out this video of them playing) Joyful parents looked on with pride, pausing every so often to tell us how much this park meant to the community.


After: Completed Lindsay Street Park playground.

As we planted I kept thinking about the upcoming Partners in Community Forestry Conference and how the Lindsay Street Park Project was a nice example of the great things that happen when partners come together. The park itself is the culmination of a three year process led by The Conservation Fund in partnership with Trees Atlanta, Atlanta Botanical Gardens, English Avenue Neighborhood Association and over 15 other nonprofit organizations, each playing a key role in the process.

The Lindsay Street Park Project is a fine example of a model that can be replicated in other underserved communities that face similar issues. Check out our Facebook album to see more photos of the transformation.

Inside Diary of Dan Lambe: Journey Throughout Southeast Asia Part II

IMG_4457I was only able to spend a day in Hanoi, Vietnam meeting with The Asia Foundation and Winrock International—the group that manages the Vietnam Forests and Deltas Program. I was impressed with the creativity of their urban forestry and mangrove forest management programs. A framework is set-up to move forward using trees as a means to protect against extreme weather resulting from climate change. The model also includes programs expected to reduce flooding, create jobs and restore habitat for marine wildlife. The teams were interested in exploring planting opportunities with the Arbor Day Foundation. The following day I was off to Singapore.


Marina Bay Sands

Fires from improper slash and burn practices in Indonesia filled the sky with smoke, which was hard to ignore upon arrival. Despite the haze we still managed to visit a beautiful park downtown called Gardens by the Bay. When the air finally cleared the following day I was amazed at what I saw. This small island nation has a world leading approach to urban forestry and green space management. I wish we could hold a Partners in Community Forestry Conference here because they are modeling practices and supporting urban forestry and greenling like I’ve rarely seen before.

IMG_4522We had a great day meeting with local parks and city forestry leaders.  The National Parks Board oversees the various forestry efforts across the nation and urban forest work is largely managed by their Street Scapes Division. I visited Bishon-Ang Mo Kio Park, where a concrete canal has been transformed into a green space with trees and vegetation to manage storm water flooding.

My last day in Singapore I visited CH2MHill, a worldwide engineering and development firm that oversees billions of dollars of development in cities and towns across the globe. We toured some of their green infrastructure work and discussed how we can draw attention to trees and green development in the industry.

IMG_4638My last stop was in Manila, Philippines where we met with the US Embassy, USAID, local city forestry leaders, ICLEI and the Asian Development Bank. Despite spending an obscene amount of time in traffic, I was eager to learn more about the urban forestry management and overall forestry efforts in the region. Our meetings with local leaders managing the trees in Metro Manila were encouraging.  My final day was met with some of the premier I-Tree users in the Philippines including university professors and industry leaders. I left thrilled about a number of potential collaboration opportunities.

My trip throughout Southeast Asia was an eye-opening experience, showing me the work still needed to improve urban forestry programs in the region and the innovative models that can be brought halfway around the world to improve our efforts here. I’m eager to see where these opportunities lead us next.

Missed the first post? Catch up on it here.


Inside Diary of Dan Lambe: Journey Through Southeast Asia

Sa Wat Dee


Biking on Bang Kachao Island

That’s hello in Thai. Last month I spent a week traveling throughout Southeast Asia with leaders in international programs at the U.S. Forest Service and the Nature Conservancy to promote urban forestry programs in the region as we explore new program and partnership opportunities.

After a 30 hour journey I spent the first day touring lively Bangkok biking through the “Green Lung” of Bangkok, or Bang Kachao Island— an oasis encompassing 2,000 hectares of lush, green forest carved next to the city center. It was a nice escape from the chaos and smog of the Bangkok. Forest faculty from Kaestrat University showed us student projects they are managing that test new conservation strategies.

Day two proved to be even more insightful as we met with public and private leaders including the environmental director of The Asia Foundation and country director for Thailand who taught us more about their collaborations across Southeast Asia. We also met the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN), a group that brings partners and cities together to combat climate change. Climate change is a hot topic in the region at the moment and opens the doors to the importance of urban forestry and the impact is has on both communities and climate. And that’s just what we did the following day.


City view of Bangkok

My last day in Thailand was filled with meetings with the Rockefeller Foundation and USAID—both big leaders of the resiliency efforts—where we engaged in high level discussions about the role trees play in climate change the challenges Southeastern Asian cities are facing. I left the meetings with a renewed energy to tackle on the rest of the week. Up next, Vietnam.

Cider Press at Arbor Day Farm

If you’ve ever watched the TV show “How It’s Made” on the Science Channel, you’ll appreciate this brief look at how Arbor Day Farm’s apple cider press works.

Arbor Day Farm has had a cider press for many years at the Apple House Market, but it was more of a museum showpiece than a functional cider press. Then in 2012, the press was overhauled and brought back into service — much to the delight of our fall season visitors (and their taste buds).

New parts were ordered. A new UV treatment machine arrived. The health inspector approved the changes, and Arbor Day Farm’s cider press was re-born.

Any kind of apples can be pressed for cider; we’re currently using a mix of Ozark Gold, Honey Crisp, Jonathan, and Braeburn apples from Arbor Day Farm’s apple orchards. This “recipe” will change over the season as different apple varieties ripen. Pressing takes place as needed all season long, and visitors can watch the cider press in action from large viewing windows inside the Cider Room.

If you’re visiting Arbor Day Farm this fall, we invite you to stop in and have a look — and take home a gallon or two of this fall season treat.