UNCW Designated a “Tree Campus Higher Education University” by the Arbor Day Foundation


Friday, September 23, 2022

UNCW’s efforts to sustainably manage and preserve its natural areas and to replace lost trees due to storms and construction have earned UNCW the Arbor Day Foundation’s “Tree Campus Higher Education University” certification.

“UNCW actively maintains our natural areas for the benefit of our students, faculty and staff as well as the community,” said Roger Shew, senior lecturer in Earth and Ocean Sciences and Environmental Sciences, who applied for the designation on behalf of the UNCW Sustainability Program. “The natural areas serve as outdoor classrooms for students and educators, recreational areas for walkers and bikers, and habitats for wildlife.”

As North Carolina’s coastal university, UNCW manages natural areas like no other. The university has more than 200 acres of forested lands on the main campus, including 190 acres of longleaf pine and 10 acres of mixed hardwoods and pines in the Bluethenthal Wildflower Preserve (the longleaf pine is colloquially known as the “tree that built the South” ). In fact, UNCW’s longleaf pine forest is one of the few remaining large tracts in New Hanover County. The university also has 57 acres of forest and salt marsh along the Intracoastal Waterway at the Center for Marine Science and 174 acres of mixed pine/oak and bottomland hardwood forests in the Ev-Henwood Preserve in Brunswick County.

The Tree Campus Higher Education program “celebrates the unique role that anchor institutions play within their community forest,” according to the foundation. UNCW is one of 27 institutions to join the program in the past year; overall, more than 400 universities nationwide are participants. Learn more about the Tree Campus Higher Education program on the Arbor Day Foundation website.

To apply for the award, a Campus Tree Advisory Committee was established that includes faculty, staff and student members and a community representative from the NC Cooperative Extension. The care and management of our campus natural areas is a joint effort of Landscape Services, the Office of Sustainability, the Campus Natural Areas Committee, the Building and Grounds Committee, and other partners including students.

Best practices for tree care include:

  • An assessment of tree types on the land UNCW maintains
  • Approved controlled burns to manage longleaf forests, which are fire-dependent ecosystems
  • Landscaping with native plants as often as possible
  • Appropriate pruning, trimming or removal when necessary and replanting whenever possible
  • Integrated pest management

Learn more about the university’s commitment to maintenance of natural areas on the UNCW Sustainability website.

Shew helps to lead the university’s efforts to replant trees, collaborating with both campus and community groups to plant 567 trees in 2020. In 2021, 165 longleaf pines were planted on campus and 225 at the Ev-Henwood Preserve in Brunswick County. In 2022, 200 more longleaf pines were planted at Ev-Henwood. Shew noted that the university lost many trees to Hurricane Florence in 2018 and to a beetle infestation in 2020. His goals for 2023 include planting at least 300 more trees and native grasses, installing a nature trail in the longleaf pine forest on the main campus, and replacing the signage in Ev-Henwood and Bluethenthal Preserves.

“UNCW students, faculty and staff appreciate the beauty of our natural areas and respect their ecological significance,” he said. “Each year, they eagerly volunteer for campus cleanup projects, tree plantings and other sustainability programs. I am proud of the UNCW community for earning recognition as a Tree Campus Higher Education University. I hope that everyone will get out and enjoy our natural areas; we are fortunate to have them and to have the opportunity to help take care of them.”

This adds to several other recognitions that UNCW has achieved over the past several years, including Bicycle Friendly University, Green Restaurant Certification, US Green Building Council, Princeton Review Green Schools, Bee Campus, and the US Department of Education Green Ribbon School Award, among others.

“We are very proud of these awards,” Shew said, “and appreciate the efforts of our students and the university community, which make them possible.”

— Andrea Monroe Weaver

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