The Mississippi Urban Forest Council has awarded Starkville the National Tree City USA certification for the second consecutive year, a distinction only conferred to 39 Mississippi cities.
The honor -- bestowed by the Mississippi Forestry Commission and the MUFC -- is only given to cities that fulfill four requirements: a city must oversee a tree advisory board, provide an urban forest management program, recognize a tree ordinance and observe Arbor Day.
The Starkville Tree Advisory Board, in its fifth year, helps uphold the city's tree ordinance, which deals with aesthetics and safety issues arising from hot, exposed concrete. Birds and small mammals also benefit.
“The recognition means the city has a standard how how to treat trees on public property,” STAB Director Jonathon Howell said. “It's important to have people who have knowledge of trees and horticulture giving input. The ordinance recognizes the importance of trees in our community and looks to maximize their value. Improved aesthetics attract people and new business.”
STAB is largely composed of MSU professors and researchers. Two of them – forestry extension professor Jason Gordon and landscape architecture extension associate Brian Templeton – are developing a project to build an inventory of every tree located on city property, including cemeteries, parks and schools. With the aid of volunteer students, the project strives to eventually record the size, health and species of every tree on public lots, which will tally in the thousands. The endeavor is currently in a sample-size stage.
Donna Yowell, executive director of the MUFC, said trees provide benefits many take for granted. Referencing economic, social, environmental and aesthetic enhancements, Yowell said “trees process storm water and reduce flooding, while providing shade during southern summers.” She added: “They also reduce energy costs as well as improve property values and quality of life.”
“We commend our Mississippi communities and other sites that strive for exceptional efforts to obtain the National Tree City USA recognition,” she said. “Trees play a vital role in creating quality throughout our state.”
The MUFC is a statewide nonprofit organization assisting communities with implementing local tree programs, which aim to educate volunteers and community leaders on forestry and provide grant assistance for local projects. For more information, contact Donna Yowell, MUFC executive director, at 601-672-0755 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit: