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Rice designated "Tree Campus USA"

By Molly Chiu     3/13/12 7:00pm

If the Lorax really could speak for the trees, he would have nothing but praise for the Rice campus. That's because Rice was named a 2011 "Tree Campus USA" by the Arbor Day Foundation. Rice will celebrate its recognition as a Tree Campus USA during a ceremony on April 14 as part of UnConvention, Rice's campus-wide open house.

According to the Arbor Day Foundation, the Tree Campus USA program celebrates college campuses that nurture and maintain their trees while also engaging students in campus forestry conservation.

Rice's lead arborist, Neville Mann, said he was excited to receive this recognition.

"It was a great feeling," Mann said. "The Rice campus and its trees are important to Houston. It's a little green jewel of the city. I've wanted to get the accreditation in time for the Centennial, and this year we met the expectations."

In order to qualify as a Tree Campus USA, Rice had to meet five key guidelines as stated by the Arbor Day Foundation.

These included establishing a campus tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, a campus tree-care program with dedicated annual expenditures, an Arbor Day observance and a service-learning project that engages the student body in tree-related projects.

People often joke that Rice has more trees than undergraduates, and according to Mann, that statement is true. Rice is home to 4,300 trees.

Student Association Environmental Committee Chair Nathan Liu said that with the large number of trees on campus, he thought Rice's designation as a Tree Campus USA was well-deserved.

"With this award, Rice has set an example for other southern universities, especially those in Texas - only nine universities in Texas have received this designation," Liu, a Wiess College sophomore, said. "The award is symbolic of the students' and administration's support for sustainability and keeping our campus an oasis of green for the city of Houston."

According to Liu, all of the trees on the Rice campus are part of the Lowrey Arboretum. The SA Environmental Committee works to inform students about Lowrey Arboretum projects.

"The SA [Environmental Committee] was instrumental in student mobilization for tree survival during the worst of the drought earlier this school year," Liu said.

Despite last year's drought, Mann said that the Rice trees have fared well.

"In terms of losses due to the drought, we only lost 20 or 30," Mann said. "The trees we lost were predisposed to pathogens. We were very fortunate to be given the resources to look after our trees."

Liu said that he thought trees were a vital part of the Rice campus image.

"The majesty of the colonnade of giant oaks leading up to the Sallyport, the comfort in the shade provided by trees in the central quad or Outer Loop, and the location that our rare campus owls make their homes in - all this lies in the trees," Liu said. "Trees are symbols of life, growth and wisdom - all things we associate with our time here at Rice."

Brown College sophomore Nathan Bonnes said that he loves Rice's trees.

"I think that the trees on campus are a huge part of Rice's heritage and an important part of our beautiful campus," Bonnes said. "I really love being able to run virtually the whole outer loop in complete shade."

Bonnes said he supported student contributions to tree sustainability.

"I think as students we should be willing to work with the administration to help preserve these trees that we enjoy every day," Bonnes said.

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