tree walk forestry club

Tree Campus USA honors - Among the various service-learning projects, members of the SIU Forestry Club, shown here in 2019, present a guided Campus Tree Walk each fall to grade school students from throughout the region. SIU earned national recognition for a fifth consecutive year from the Arbor Day Foundation.

July 20, 2020

SIU earns fifth consecutive Tree Campus USA honor

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University has earned national recognition as a 2019 Tree Campus USA for its commitment to a green and sustainable campus and effective urban forest management. It’s the fifth consecutive year the Arbor Day Foundation has honored the university.

SIU is one of just 401 universities across the nation and one of 21 in the state to earn the recognition.

“The Tree Campus USA designation acknowledges our commitment to education, community outreach, and environmental stewardship,” Dave Tippy, superintendent of grounds, said.  

Commitment illustrated

To achieve the standard, a university must meet five sustainable campus forestry standards, and Tippy said that despite the most unusual year this has been due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SIU has still illustrated its ongoing commitment, proving its commitment to healthy trees and to involving students, faculty and staff in conservation and sustainability.

The university has a campus tree-care inventory and plan, which is kept updated, and an active tree advisory committee comprised of arborists, forestry faculty, grounds and sustainability staff and students. The group helps assure effective campus forestry management and oversees the campus tree plan.

The university sponsors various service-learning projects, including a Campus Tree Walk. Plant and Service Operations and its grounds department facilitates the event, which is sponsored by the campus tree committee and presented each fall by the Forestry Club. About 150 of the region’s grade school students enjoy a guided tree walk on campus where they get to check out the QR tree coding identification system and learn to identify numerous trees. They also enjoy watching crosscut sawing, axe throwing, tree climbing and demonstrations of other lumberjack skills.

This spring’s Arbor Day observance, which typically includes the planting of trees by volunteers, couldn’t take place due to the pandemic but will happen when feasible, at least in a virtual format, and Tippy said planning is already underway for some alternative type of service-learning project should the fall tree walk not be feasible.

Trees everywhere

The university has an inventory of more than 5,300 trees on the main campus alone, including over 160 different species. The inventory doesn’t include Thompson Woods, the wooded areas around Campus Lake, or various auxiliary properties including Touch of Nature Environmental Center and the farms, Tippy said. Trees around campus feature QR codes that people can scan and find out all kinds of interesting information about them.

The SIU Arboretum features a diverse selection of species and the university has created six self-guided tree identification tours, enabling people to view a wide variety of trees, including leaves, bark, fruit, photos and other details, either via a walking tour or virtually.

SIU is the first university in Illinois and still one of just two in the state to earn Level II Arboretum Accreditation from the ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program and SIU is now featured in the Morton Register of Arboreta. This is the only global initiative that officially recognizes arboreta for development, capacity and professionalism.

Tippy said this is further proof of SIU’s overall commitment to a green and sustainable campus.

Achieving the honor is a campus-wide effort

Earning a fifth Tree Campus USA designation is a collaborative, cross-campus effort, with numerous campus units and employees and students involved, according to Tippy.

It’s also a great opportunity for students to gain practical experience.

For more information about the tree campus initiative and other related sustainability happenings at SIU, visit