The first Earth Day involved 20 million Americans at hundreds of rallies across the country calling for a healthy, sustainable environment. That nationwide event led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.
Arbor Day was first imagined by J Sterling Morton of Nebraska. Like many Nebraska settlers of that time, Morton missed the trees he left behind when his family moved to the largely treeless Nebraska Territory in 1854.
In 1872, Morton was successful in persuading the Nebraska Board of Agriculture to hold a statewide tree-planting event on April 10 of that year. On the first Arbor Day, Nebraska residents planted one million trees. Eventually, the concept of Arbor Day spread, and by 1882, the day was celebrated in schools across the country.
For history buffs: J Sterling Morton’s son Joy Morton founded Morton Salt in Chicago in 1910 and then the Morton Arboretum in Lisle in 1922.
Locally, Johnsburg Junior High School students celebrate Arbor Day by planting oak trees. Over the past 6 years, students have planted nearly 300 seedlings to reforest an area along Dutch Creek. Each year, students learn about the oak woodland ecology and history of the county and then plant 45 oaks that are donated by Glacier Oaks Nursery in Harvard.
If other schools are interested in starting a similar tradition, please contact The Land Conservancy at 815-337-9502.
There are many opportunities to celebrate Earth Month this year:
Plant an oak. Through Glacier Oaks Nursery in Harvard, The Land Conservancy offers bur, white, scarlet, red and swamp white oak seedlings starting at $20. All trees are container grown from acorns gathered from healthy local oak trees. Visit www.conservemc.org or call 815-337-9502 to place your order.
Install a rainbarrel. TLC has a limited number of rainbarrels available for immediate pick-up at its office, 4622 Dean Street, Woodstock. Barrels are $69 and available in green, grey and dark brown. Call 815-337-9502 to order. Orders can also be placed on-line at www.conservemc.org for rainbarrels that will be available to pick up in May. $69 in terra cotta, grey, black or blue.
Gardenfest, 7:30 am – 3:45 pm Saturday, April 11 at McHenry County College. Dozens of workshops covering science, art and craft topics related to the home garden. Keynote program by Roy Diblik at 8:15 am. $45 registration at the door.
Yonder Prairie Restoration Day, 14401 Trinity Court, Woodstock. Help Land Conservancy volunteers remove invasive brush from this state-designated nature preserve. No experience required. Hand tools and refreshments provided. Dress to work outside.
McHenry County’s Vernal Pools, 9 am – noon, Saturday April 18, location to be announced. Learn about these unique, seasonally wet areas and the critical role they play in the lives of frogs, salamanders (pictured above) and other wetland critters. Register through The Land Conservancy, 815-337-9502, or MCC, 815-455-8588, course code S34 004.
Earth Day Celebration, 11 am – 4 pm, Saturday April 18, Prairieview Education Center, Crystal Lake. Hosted by McHenry County Conservation District and the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County. Free. Includes nature hikes, puppet shows, live music, vendor exhibits and more.
Earth Day, Wednesday April 22 – all day!
Arbor Day, Friday April 24 – all day!
Woodland Wildflower Identification Hike, 10 am – 2 pm, Saturday April 25, location to be announced. Learn to identify some of the native wildflowers found in local woodlands each spring. Bring a lunch. Register through The Land Conservancy, 815-337-9502, or MCC, 815-455-8588, course code S35 005.