Mississippi State University celebrated the state's Arbor Day by planting trees on the Drill Field on Friday in an event that included short speeches by faculty members from the College of Forest Resources, as well as one from MSU President Mark Keenum. Scholarship students in the forestry department planted trees on the corner near Walker Engineering Building, as members of their faculty and groundsmen looked on. Roughly 75 people were in attendance on the cold, 28-degree day.
"We count on trees to give us the oxygen we breathe," Keenum said in the first speech, emphasizing how important it is that we continue to plant more trees. "They provide shelter, warmth and our food, and here in Mississippi, 2/3 of the landmass is covered in trees," he continued.
Keenum also stated MSU takes trees "very seriously," and mentioned their prevalence on campus with more than 10,000 trees of over 20 different species present. As a part of this year's Arbor Day celebration, MSU will plant many more trees throughout the year, starting with the white oaks planted on Friday.
After Keenum ended his speech by lauding the beauty and aesthetic trees give us, Wes Burger, professor of wildlife ecology and management and interim director of the College of Forest Resources, came up and talked to the crowd about the importance of trees.
"In the College of Forest Fesources, you might suspect we have an affinity for trees," Burger started. "We like trees and the forests they produce. I've heard it said that the best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago, and that trees are not a short-term investment, they're a long-term investment, an investment in our future. Today, as we plant these trees, we're making an investment in the class of 2050."
Burger noted trees provide jobs to thousands of Mississippians statewide and continued by talking about the other tangible benefits trees give people. He also mentioned the non-tangible, emotional value of trees.
"I look at trees as good medicine for the soul, and they contribute to the aesthetics of our environment here on campus. Trees are a valuable component of our built environment," Burger said.
Burger's final thoughts were about how trees record our history in their growth rings.
"They give us information about the time they were growing, telling the story of drought, rainfall, floods, hurricanes, war and famine. All that is encoded in their rings of growth. It is a window into our past," Burger said.
The final talk was by Saunders Ramsey, executive director of campus services. He began by thanking the campus landscaping team and previewing the plan for the future.
"They work for me, but they really work for you," Ramsey said. "You're going to see over the next few years a constant emphasis on tree planting. We started here on the Drill Field, and you're going to start seeing hundreds of trees being planted on the north side of campus. And I hope in 30 years, you'll look back and say, 'I remember when that started.'"