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For Release: Friday, April 24, 2015

Arbor Day Celebrated in New York State

State Awards $250,000 to the City of Albany for Tivoli Lake Preserve

Student and State Arbor Day Poster Contest Winners Announced

The state Departments of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Parks, Agriculture and Markets, and the State Arbor Day Committee, joined state and local officials today for an Arbor Day tree planting event. At the event, DEC awarded the City of Albany $250,000 from the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) for park improvements at Tivoli Lake Preserve. Governor Cuomo proclaimed today State Arbor Day as part of a weeklong Earth Week tribute to New York's commitment and accomplishments to protecting our environment, conserving open space, increasing access to the state's vast and magnificent natural resources, implementing clean energy initiatives and preparing for the effects of climate change.

"The annual celebration of Arbor Day reminds us all to recognize the importance of trees, the impact that they make in our everyday lives and their role in enhancing our environment and quality of life," said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. "Trees help improve air quality, reduce energy consumption and beautify the landscape in New York's urban areas. Today's memorial tree planting that pays tribute to Brother Yusuf in Albany's Tivoli Park is a great way to honor his memory and all the work he did connecting inner city youth to the outdoors."

Arbor Day is a nationally celebrated observance that promotes tree planting and tree care, and also highlights the importance of trees to our environment, our economy and our quality of life. Founded by J. Sterling Morton in Nebraska in 1872, National Arbor Day is celebrated each year on the last Friday in April. It was established to encourage farmers and homesteaders to plant trees that would provide shade, shelter, food, fuel and beauty to open areas.

"Arbor Day is an important annual reminder of the impact our actions today have for future generations," said State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. "With today's tree plantings statewide, we're providing for years of health benefits for young New Yorkers, and with EPF grants like the one for park improvements to Albany's Tivoli Park, we're investing in a future where parks and green spaces continue to be protected and preserved. I encourage everyone to remember what they can do to positively affect the environment today, and every day."

The enacted state budget for 2015-16 raises the Environmental Protection Fund to $177 million, an increase of 32 percent since Governor Cuomo took office. The $15 million increase will support fourteen categories, including land conservation, stewardship, and invasive species control and prevention. The increase includes a new sub-allocation for capacity grants to State Parks friends' groups.

"This Arbor Day, the City of Albany is especially grateful for the $250,000 awarded us through New York State's Environmental Protection Fund to improve Tivoli Lake Preserve, an urban woodland area that is a diamond in the rough," said Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan. "Thank you to the DEC and to Governor Cuomo as well for funds that will help us clear invasive species, build trails, and make the park more inviting to everyone looking for a woodland oasis in our City."

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, "Arbor Day is a perfect day to remember how important trees are to us and to our world. Trees give life and shelter to animals, they clean the air we breathe, they provide us with healthy food and drink, and they are a large and growing part of our state's economy. You make the world a little bit better when you plant a tree for Arbor Day."

State and local officials converged on Tivoli Lake Preserve in downtown Albany for this year's event. The preserve is the second largest urban nature park in all of New York State, second only to Central Park in New York City. Visitors to the Preserve will find a sanctuary filled with riparian vegetation and forest, a relaxing view of Tivoli Lake and a home to a variety of wildflowers and animals. Tree "price tags" adorned park trees to demonstrate the benefits of these trees; for example, one tree in the park provides, on average, $1,500 in benefits over a 15-year period. Northern Nurseries in Schenectady donated this year's ceremonial red oak tree.

The 2015 Arbor Day tree planting is in memory of Brother Yusuf Burgess, a long-time advocate for introducing children to the joys of being outdoors and learning about nature. At the time of his death in December 2014, Brother Yusuf was the leader of Department of Environmental Conservation's Capital District Campership Diversity Program. He previously worked for Green Tech Charter High School and Albany Boys and Girls Club. As a board member emeritus of Children & Nature Network, he was a nationally recognized inspirational speaker who encouraged organizations, individuals and communities to reconnect children with nature.

For the past two decades, Brother Yusuf and his wife Cherrie took hundreds of Albany-area urban youth hiking, camping, kayaking and bird watching. Many of these children received scholarships, called camperships, to one of DEC's four summer residential youth camps where they further honed their outdoor skills during their one week at camp. It was Brother Yusuf's own experiences as a youngster with climbing trees and catching tadpoles in paper cups at Prospect Park in Brooklyn that allowed him to know and share the healing power of nature. Brother Yusuf's motto was, "Using the power of nature to transform urban youth." His legacy continues in the lives of the young men and women he inspired to continue their education, contribute to their community and connect with the natural world.

The Arbor Day celebration also recognized the artwork of DEC's children's poster contest winner, Nayeon Park, 5th Grader from P.S. 209 Clearview Gardens School in Whitestone, Queens, New York. The theme of this year's children's artwork is Tree-Mendous Trees of New York.

In addition, the New York State Arborists presented its Gold Leaf Award to Dr. Nina Bassuk, Executive Director of The Urban Horticulture Institute at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Arbor Day in New York State is coordinated by the Arbor Day Committee, made up of representatives from the New York State Departments of Agriculture and Markets and Environmental Conservation, the New York State Nursery Landscape Association, New York State Arborists, International Paper and the Empire State Forest Products Association.

For more information about celebrating Arbor Day, contact a local DEC office, visit DEC's website or call 518-402-9425.

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