The Arbor Day Foundation recently announced that The University of Texas at El Paso had earned its Tree Campus USA certification, which validates UTEP’s efforts to be a sustainable green space.
Greg McNicol, associate vice president for business affairs – facilities management, said campus trees serve multiple roles to include shade, soil protection, energy savings, enhanced air quality, stormwater management and a habitat for wildlife.
“Creating green space is an important part of our plan,” McNicol said. “Trees are a vital part of our current landscape. The University is honored to have been recognized for our efforts that will continue to have a positive impact on UTEP students and staff.”
Institutions must achieve five standards to earn this designation: have a tree care plan, annual funding for tree care, an Arbor Day observance, a service learning project and a tree advisory committee that includes a student, faculty member, facilities management representative, and a community member.
Among the University’s 2016 tree care plan goals was to establish an interactive campus tree inventory database that will allow staff to log each species of tree and patterns of health or mortality. The database covers 92 acres of maintained landscapes and 138 acres of natural areas. The campus directory has charted 3,142 trees made up of 180 species.
The committee’s 2017 objective is to launch a “virtual arboretum” that will allow campus visitors with smart phones to identify pertinent information for each tree, such as its name in Latin and English, its age, and botanical information about each species. The virtual arboretum, which will include a campus map, is being tested and refined.
“A lot of work goes into seeking and maintaining the designation, and we applaud (UTEP’s) effort,” said Gretchen Riley, partnership coordinator with the Texas A&M Forest Service. “Recognizing and encouraging the benefits of trees makes your campus a better community for learning.”