Celebrate Arbor Day every day

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By Ralph Damiani

The first day of spring was Friday. But here in New Mexico, we got an early start by celebrating Arbor Day on March 13.

While National Arbor Day is held on the last Friday in April, New Mexico, similar to several other states, observes the holiday at a time best suited for tree planting.

The Arbor Day Foundation encourages everyone to plant a tree to celebrate this special holiday. The Foundation’s website (www.arborday.org) offers many helpful tips from how to plant a tree to selecting the right tree for the right place.

This event only begins our celebration of nature.

Under the leadership of the Pajarito Enironmental Education Center, we will work on April 18 as part of Clean Up Los Alamos Day.

Then, again under PEEC’s efforts, we will honor Earth Day in Los Alamos County on April 22.

The first Arbor Day was celebrated in Nebraska on April 10, 1872, thanks to a resolution proposed by Nebraska City, Neb., resident J. Sterling Morton.

Morton, a civic leader, agriculturist and former newspaper editor, urged Nebraskans to “set aside one day to plant trees, both forest and fruit.”

The tree-planting holiday was so popular that by 1920, more than 45 states and U.S. territories annually celebrated Arbor Day. Today, Arbor Day is observed in all 50 states and in many countries around the world.

The Piñon tree, Pinus edulis, was adopted as New Mexico’s state tree in 1949 by The New Mexico Federation of Women’s Clubs.

An historic favorite, this small tree grows over much of the state. Sixteenth century explorers made note of this nut-bearing tree and archeologists have found evidence of the nuts in the cliff dwellings and in ancient Native American pueblos.

The nuts from this slow-growing tree are a local and national favorite, and its wood is often used as fuel, causing a fragrant perfume as it is used for heat or cooking.

The tallest Piñon tree recorded is in Cuba, N.M., reaching 51 feet. This kind of growth is very uncommon as it takes hundreds of years to grow up to 30 feet.

We here in Los Alamos know almost better than anyone about tree  loss and the need to replant. Just recently have the hills begun to show green again, in large part thanks to the efforts of many local individuals and groups that went out after the fire and planted trees.

We need to continue that effort. So, while the official New Mexico Arbor Day may be over, there is never a bad time to celebrate spring by planting a tree.

More information on the Foundation and its programs or ways to celebrate Arbor Day can be found at www.arborday.org.

A good move

The Legislature’s vote to approve a measure that opens the doors to conference committees is an act that should be applauded.

The Senate and House both passed the bill, sending it to Gov. Richardson, who has said he would sign the measure.

Conference committees are made up of six lawmakers from both parties appointed by Senate and House leaders to come up with a compromise when the chambers pass differing versions of a bill.

The final decisions on important legislation – the annual state budget, for example – are often made in conference committees, the Associated Press reports.

The public, press and even other lawmakers are excluded from the closed-door sessions.

Supporters said it’s time for transparency in that part of the legislative process.

Opponents said being watched could chill the negotiating process for conference committee members.

Opening up the committees would simply drive the real decision-making behind the scenes, they also argued.

If that is true, then all hope for free and open government is lost.

And – naturally – the legislators left themselves a way out.

That language provides for the Legislature to close conference committees with a two-thirds vote of both houses.

Still, with all objections, this is a good bill and something the state should have done long ago.