MILTON, Fla. (NNS) -- Naval Air Station Whiting Field marked its 20th consecutive year as a National Arbor Day Foundation "Tree City, USA," Dec. 6.
The base celebrated the platinum anniversary of its green leadership by planting a sapling river birch on the grounds of the air station's fire department.
Capt. Matthew Coughlin, NAS Whiting Field commanding officer, in conjunction with personnel from the base's Public Works Department and the Florida Forest Service, held a gold-plated shovel for the occasion and proclaimed the significance of the event.
"We're one of only six military bases in Florida to do this, and that's a big deal. It's been 20 years since I've been here [as a student aviator], but the base was beautiful then, and it's a beautiful place now because of measures like these," Coughlin said.
The dedication and planting of the new tree represented the latest addition to the base's growing collection of young river birches. The thriving subjects of previous years' plantings, some of which have grown considerably, provided an ideal setting for the air station's gesture.
The National Arbor Day Foundation sets four standards that a town or installation must meet in order to achieve the designation "Tree City, USA;" a tree care board must be convened; a tree care ordinance must be codified; a minimum per-capita forest maintenance budget must be established; and an Arbor Day proclamation must be delivered.
As the longest-serving military "Tree City USA," the base consistently has exceeded these requirements. In 2011, the air station dedicated more than $90,000 to forestry efforts at NAS Whiting Field and its thirteen outlying fields. The Public Works Department maintains active stewardship of more than 12,000 acres that fall under the command's authority.
In 2011, Public Works conducted controlled burns that stabilized and conditioned over 190 acres of targeted air station land. This proactive measure is credited with avoiding uncontrolled brush fires, renewing habitats for wildlife below the canopy level, and reducing the impact of uncontrolled fires on aviation training operations.
Public Works Natural Resources Manager Ron Cherry lauds this approach as an ideal alternative to the energy-intensive tasks of manually clearing overgrown forests or fighting wildfires that can result from overgrowth. Failure in active forestry requires reactionary measures that drain manpower, fuel, and finances.
Cherry delivered a resounding endorsement of the benefits of the air station's "Tree City, USA" designation.
"Being a 'Tree City' includes creating a framework for action, education, a positive public image, and citizen pride," he said.
Cherry emphasized the economic, social, and environmental impact that responsible forestry contributes to the region. He highlighted the role that trees have played in urban planning and the development of community pride during his time in the base's home town of Milton, Fla.
"[Socially], trees make life more pleasant for most individuals. The strong ties between people and trees are most evident in the resistance of community residents to removing trees to widen streets," he said..
For more news from Naval Air Station Whiting Field, visit www.navy.mil/local/naswf/.