When it comes to maintaining and enhancing an inventory of over 9,849 living trees on the 900-acre Blacksburg campus, being able to "see the forest through the trees" takes on a whole new meaning.

It’s Virginia Tech’s holistic approach to university forestry — rooted in planning, collaboration, education, and community engagement — that has helped the university earn Tree Campus Higher Education USA recognition for the 13th consecutive year.

Launched in 2008 by the Arbor Day Foundation, Tree Campus Higher Education USA is a national program that honors colleges and universities for effective campus forest management and for engaging students, employees, and visitors in conservation goals.

Virginia Tech achieved Tree Campus Higher Education USA recognition by meeting five national standards, which include maintaining a tree advisory committee, operating a campus tree-care plan, dedicating annual expenditures toward trees, organizing an Arbor Day observance, and delivering ongoing student learning and engagement opportunities.

Heading up Virginia Tech’s urban forestry efforts is University Arborist Jamie King, who joined the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities in 2019.

“Virginia Tech is proud to receive Tree Campus Higher Education USA recognition for the 13th year. Trees play an integral part in maintaining a sustainable campus landscape. They help support air purification, erosion control, and stormwater management. Not to mention the countless recreational, educational, and community-building opportunities they provide. Just like our storied buildings, cutting-edge research labs, and more, trees are significant university assets,” said King.

Trees are among the most visible representations of Virginia Tech’s commitment to environmental stewardship. Pathways to advance tree preservation, reforestation, and education are prescribed throughout a number of key university frameworks, including the Campus Master Plan2020 Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment, and the Virginia Tech Blacksburg Campus Urban Forest Master Plan, which is currently going through the public comment phase.

Since 2008, more than a thousand trees have been planted on the Blacksburg campus. A joint effort among the university arborist, University Arboretum Committee, Facilities OperationsOffice of University PlanningCapital Construction and Renovations, and College of Natural Resources and Environment is catalyzing these planting efforts.

Recent tree plantings in the Old-Growth Forest adjacent to Lane Stadium, commonly known as Stadium Woods, during Earth Week and along Alumni Mall are just two examples of the many reforestation efforts underway.

Group Arbor Day planting event
2021 Arbor Day planting at Virginia Tech.

Of equal importance is ensuring the health of the existing campus tree canopy. To achieve this, King partners closely with Facilities Operations to implement a rigorous tree maintenance plan. This includes ongoing pruning, mulching,  plant health care, and a host of other conservation activities.

The Campus Tree Inventory and Interactive Tree Map is another resource helping guide tree preservation and maintenance. A collaboration among the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and College of Natural Resources and Environment, the inventory includes location, species, measurements, and health and condition details for more than 9,849 living trees and historical records. Real-time data collected in the field added to the inventory helps prioritize maintenance activities and further inspections.

Whether in the classroom, in-person under the branches of the historic Alwood Oak on the Drillfield, or through the online inventory and tree map, university and community members get countless opportunities for educational, civic, and recreational engagement.

King partners closely with the Office of Sustainability and the College of Natural Resources and Environment to offer students immersive learning experiences in urban forestry. These include hands-on sessions at campus trees, tree plantings throughout the year, and urban forestry student internship opportunities.

Branching Out, a new university arborist engagement video series, also provides viewers an inside look into urban forestry on campus, informative hands-on demonstrations, and other original content.

In the spring 2021 Branching Out feature, University Arborist Jamie King:

  • Explores campus trees.
  • Discusses the Urban Forestry Program.
  • Demonstrates the do's and don'ts of urban tree mulching.
  • Shows off one of the secret trees of Virginia Tech.
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