Southern becomes first La. HBCU to receive ‘Tree Campus’ designation

"We're planting a legacy," says SU Acting Chancellor Flandus McClinton

Southern University celebrated receiving the national Tree Campus recognition today with the Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota by planting trees during a hands-on volunteer event today on the Baton Rouge campus.

Southern becomes the first historically black college in Louisiana to receive the designation and it is one of only five other HBCUs in the U.S. to be selected as a Tree Campus.

Today's event included the planting of a "Centennial Tree" to mark both the occasion and Southern's yearlong celebration of its 100th year at the Baton Rouge location. More than a dozen trees were planted around the campus on Thursday morning as part of the Tree Campus observation. The university intends to plan 100 trees over the next several months.

"Southern University is excited to be designated as a Tree Campus USA," said Flandus McClinton, acting Chancellor of Southern University.  "This designation is the result of hard work by our Urban Forestry program along with our strong collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service to inspire our students to understand the significance of a green environment."

"We are planting a legacy," McClinton said of the tree-planting effort.

Dozens of students, faculty and administrators took part in the ceremonial tree planting on the campus' picturesque bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. The 8-foot Live Oak is planted near the first building built on the campus when it moved from New Orleans and relocated to Baton Rouge in 1914.

"The significance of the location of the Centennial Tree is very important," said Dr. Kamran Abdollahi, professor of Urban Forestry and the Urban Forestry Program Leader. His department along with the College of Sciences and Agriculture were major contributors to the university being site by the Arbor Day Foundation.

Dozens student volunteers, organized by SU's Office of Student Affairs, help plant the trees around the campus.

"On behalf of Toyota, I congratulate the students at Southern University who helped their school earn this prestigious Tree Campus USA recognition," said Latondra Newton, Chief Corporate Social Responsibility Officer at Toyota Motor North America. "We are inspired by your dedication to creating a greener campus and are proud to partner with the Arbor Day Foundation on the Tree Campus USA program and help support the next generation of environmental leaders."

To achieve Tree Campus USA status, a college must establish a campus tree advisory committee, craft a campus tree care plan, allocate annual funding for its campus tree program, host an Arbor Day observance and conduct a service learning outreach project in the spirit of the Tree Campus USA initiative.

The Arbor Day Foundation began the Tree Campus USA program in 2008 to honor college campuses and the leaders of their surrounding communities for promoting healthy urban forestry management and engaging the campus community in environmental stewardship.


Thursday's celebration also included an educational panel that presented the topic of how trees can be a part of the answer in addressing challenging environmental justice issues. For example, planting fruit and nut trees helps to provide communities with adequate access to healthy, fresh food. Trees also provide environmental benefits such as clean air and clean water. An abundance of research indicates that planting trees reduces crime and increases property value.

Robert Chambers, a doctoral student in SU's Urban Forestry Program, said, "We all deserve to go to a school and work in a place that has a sustainable ecosystem. Having tree plantings on campus helps aid in that progress.

Southern University is a USDA/1890 Land Grant Institution. The mission of the USDA/1890 Program is to attract students into careers in agriculture and related fields; share expertise and resources in areas such as agricultural research, extension and teaching programs, technology development, limited-resource farmers and minority farmer programs, and rural development programs; and to increase the involvement of the 1890 Land-Grant Institutions in the delivery of USDA programs. 

The Forest Service relationship with Southern University began in 1991, establishing a partnership to launch the nation's first Urban Forestry degree program.

"The Tree Campus USA program is a wonderful opportunity to highlight the benefits of trees in our communities - clean air, clean water and quality of life," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "The Forest Service is proud to help support Southern University's urban forestry training program, and I know this recognition is well deserved."

Tree Campus USA® is a national campaign leading the way in recruiting and training environmental leaders to support forward-thinking sustainable campus communities.

"Students throughout the country are looking for opportunities to contribute to their campus community and become better environmental stewards," said Matt Harris, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. "Tree Campus USA provides students that opportunity and sets a terrific example for other colleges and universities."

Each year, the Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota sponsor tree plantings on college and university grounds throughout the country.

Tree Campus USA, a national program launched in 2008 by the Arbor Day Foundation, honors colleges and universities and their leaders for promoting healthy trees and engaging students and staff in the spirit of conservation. Tree Campus USA is supported by a generous grant from Toyota.


About Southern University's Urban Forestry Program: It is a comprehensive educational, research and outreach program with undergraduate and graduate degree components.


The program is supported by the United States Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service.

The Urban Forestry Educational Master Plan developed by SU is used as a guide to enhance the urban forest ecosystem on the Bluff. The plan was funded by the U.S. Forest Service. 



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