Arbor Day Award

The 2007 National Arbor Day Foundation
J. Sterling Morton Award Presented to Sebastian Chuwa

Arbor Day Award plaque

“The cultivation of trees is the cultivation of the good, the beautiful and the ennobling in man.”
— J. Sterling Morton

“Arbor Day, the tree planter’s holiday, reflects the timeless relationship between people and trees. 
Since the dawn of humanity, trees have been our partners–originally a source of heat and light, 
trees also became the source of wood for homes, furnishings, utensils, tools, paper, and hundreds 
of other uses. Down through the ages, trees have also been the source of beauty and inspiration 
for those who know them, love them, and care for them.

“We celebrate the men and women who have made a difference for trees–planting them, preserving 
them, protecting them from dangers, and helping others more fully appreciate trees and care for the 

 These inspiring words from a display at the Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure set the tone for the gala 35th annual Arbor Day Awards Banquet and Ceremonies held at the Lied Lodge and Conference Center in Nebraska City, Nebraska June 1-2, 2007. The National Arbor Day Foundation presented its yearly awards to a variety of individuals and groups in recognition of their leadership in the cause of tree planting, conservation, and environmental stewardship.

Arbor Day Award

Sebastian Chuwa was honored at the awards banquet on June 2 as recipient of the Arbor Day Foundation‘s 2007 J. Sterling Morton Award for his efforts in planting trees and environmental education efforts in Africa. “Sebastian’s dedication to community-supported initiatives and youth education has inspired a generation in his homeland to plant and celebrate the value of trees,” said John Rosenow, president of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Through his tree-planting efforts, he is making an impact at home and around the world.” See presentation and acceptance speech on YouTube.

John Rosenow, president of the National Arbor Day Foundation, presents J. Sterling Morton Award plaque to Sebastian Chuwa
John Rosenow, president of the National Arbor Day Foundation, presents J. Sterling Morton Award plaque to Sebastian Chuwa.

Presentation Ceremony

In 1872, J. Sterling Morton began a movement, Arbor Day, now celebrating its 135th year in the United States, which has spread throughout the world. Morton saw, before almost anyone else, that trees are vital–necessary not only for our spirits or our comfort, but necessary for our very existence. The J. Sterling Morton Award is the Foundation’s highest honor, and is presented each year to a man or woman whose pursuit of the Arbor Day ideal has become synonymous with that of J. Sterling Morton himself. At the banquet following the awards ceremony, Nebraska City Mayor JoDee Adelung presented Sebastian the Key to the City for Nebraska City, Nebraska. She remarked that this was the first time an Arbor Day Awards winner was so honored. Awards were also presented to 18 groups and individuals who have been instrumental in advancing tree planting initiatives and environmental education projects.

Tree planting at Arbor Day Farm - Sebastian, James and Bette.
Sebastian Chuwa delivers acceptance speech for J. Sterling Morton Award at Arbor Day ceremonies
Sebastian Chuwa delivers acceptance speech at ceremony.

The Media Award was given to three individuals who have written inspiring books about trees. The Caroline French Morton Award (named for the wife of J. Sterling Morton) was presented to Ruth A. Wilson, an educator who has been instrumental in drawing attention to the importance, even for very young children, of contact with nature. The National Football League was honored for its Carbon Neutral Project of planting trees to offset carbon emissions during the Super Bowl. The Celebration Award went to Arapahoe, Nebraska, which hosted outstanding “TREEmendous Arbor Day” activities. Enterprise Rent-A-Car received the Promise to the Earth Award for its generous pledge to dedicate $1 million a year for the next 50 years to plant trees in national forests that have been damaged by wildfire.

Award winners were treated to a tour of the Arbor Day Farms and the Arbor Lodge State Park (donated to the state by the Morton family) with a guided tour of the J. Sterling Morton mansion and carriage house. They participated in a tree planting ceremony (shown above) of an 8′ tall Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus), which was transplanted from an “alley planting” demonstration area where the trees were growing too densely and needed thinning. 

The Arbor Day Farm serves as an educational and demonstration area for environmental conservation. Its hazelnut orchard is a demonstration plot for woody perennials. Research has shown that hazelnuts produce the same quantity of harvestable produce as a soybean plot, without the need for fertilizers, soil tilling, or yearly planting. The roots of the trees bind the soil and prevent erosion, and an adapted blueberry picker is proving successful for efficient machine-harvesting of the hazelnuts. Other Arbor Day plots demonstrate the technique of “alley planting”, whereby an alley of trees is tightly planted in between rows of normal annual crops, such as corn or soybeans. Since it takes some years for a tree to mature to production of its crop, this allows farmers to continue to plant their annual crops while starting the process of replacing the annual acreage with perennial woody crops.

Lied Lodge

The Lied Lodge uses a pulpwood heating and cooling plant that provides the 144-room lodge with all its needs for conditioned air year round. It is a very clean-burning unit that utilizes a renewable resource, and wood chips from a pallet plant that were previously buried in a landfill now replace non-renewable energy sources for the lodge’s heat and cooling requirements.

The top 18″ of topsoil was scraped away before construction began on the Lodge in 1992. It was stored nearby and replaced in planting areas around the buildings and parking lot after construction was finished. A very large tree spade was used to transport mature trees that were donated to the lodge to replant in areas surrounding the parking lot. This process produced an instantly shaded and beautiful landscape.

Lied Lodge and Arbor Day Farm are shining examples of what can be achieved through a reciprocity between nature and its human population. Wood is honored as a renewable resource and widely used in many functions–in buildings, bridges, and production of energy. Throughout the complex one is surrounded by greenery and can catch frequent glimpses of birds and forest creatures. These facilities are a true example of how The Arbor Day Foundation’s policies of good stewardship for the environment benefit all the lifestreams of nature. Their philosophy mirrors an adage used by Sebastian in Tanzania, “Cut one tree, plant two trees!” 

Silhouetted Candelabra tree (Euphorbia ingens) on the rim road leading into Ngorongoro Crater Conservation area.