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   from the issue of April 24, 2008

  Agronomy and horticulture graduate leads joint initiative

ReTree Nebraska pursues 1M tree goal


Forget about the power of red - unless it's fall foliage.


Jessica Kelling wants Nebraskans to think green.

As the coordinator for ReTree Nebraska, Kelling - who graduated UNL in December with a master's degree in horticulture and agronomy - is helping lead the initiative's charge to plant a million trees in Nebraska communities in the next 10 years.

"Since the late 1970s, Nebraska has lost nearly 50 percent of our community forests to storms, disease, insects and even old age," said Kelling. "We need to find ways to make up for those and further losses in the future. That's what ReTree Nebraska is about."

ReTree Nebraska is a cooperative initiative between the Nebraska Forest Service, Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, the University of Nebraska Rural Initiative, the Institute for Agricultural and Natural Resources, and the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture at UNL. The initiative aims to raise public awareness of the value of trees and reverse the decline of Nebraska's community tree resources.

"ReTree is about more than counting the number of trees planted," Kelling said. "Our goal is to teach Nebraskans about the importance of planting a diverse selection of trees, and how to properly care for them. Trees are not something you can just plant and forget about."

Volunteers are helping power the initiative at the local level. Kelling said more than 200 Nebraskans from more than 50 communities have signed up to be ReTree ambassadors and promote the program.

The initiative has partnered with the Nebraska Nursery Landscape Association to add special tags to help customers identify tree species that grow well in Nebraska. The partnership will also help track tree plantings.

"We want to be sure people purchase affordable, high quality trees in various sizes - from seedlings to large caliper trees," Kelling said. "Our partnership with the nursery industry allows us to accomplish that."



Any tree planted in a Nebraska town or city can count toward the million-tree goal. Plantings can be reported online at

"This program is a way to give something back to future generations of Nebraskans," Kelling said.

ReTree was also enough to keep the Hickman native in her home state.

"I had plans to go to California after graduation," Kelling said. "The green industry is huge out there, and I really looked forward to a change of scenery. But, after growing up on a acreage and graduating from the horticulture and agronomy program here at UNL, this was an opportunity I couldn't pass up."

Planting Events

UNL is commemorating Arbor Day 2008 (April 25) with the following tree planting events:

East Campus Celebration

1 p.m., April 24

With John Owens, vice chancellor of IANR

Northwest corner of 38th Street and the

East Campus Loop

International Quilt Study Center and Museum Planting

noon, April 25

33rd and Holdrege streets

Both events are free and open to the public. For more information, call 472-0220 or 472-9869



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