Western Michigan University will not be known as a “Tree Campus USA” this year. The decision comes after Western cut down about 60 trees amid student and faculty protests last fall.
Tree Campus USA is a conservation program run by the nonprofit Arbor Day Foundation. Participating schools apply for Tree Campus status each year, based on their merits for the previous year. Western is a longtime participant in Tree Campus USA. But last year the school controversially cut down dozens of trees at a development site on the South Side of its main campus. An investigation by WMUK found that the university had not lived up to Tree Campus USA’s standards.
Abbie Bristol is a student member of Western’s Tree Campus USA Committee, the board that decided not to seek certification for 2018. Bristol says it’s painful to see the school leave Tree Campus USA.
“But at the same time, I know we don’t deserve it. If we had it, I wouldn’t be proud of it. I wouldn’t stand behind it because of the way things have been done,” she told WMUK.
Pete Strazdas is the Associate Vice-President for Facilities Management at Western.
“I’m not a member of the committee and I’ll leave it up to their decision-making abilities, but I do respect their decision,” he said.
Strazdas added that Western is taking steps to clarify its conservation policies and to improve communication with the students, faculty and staff on the Tree Campus Committee. He says its members are working with his department on a new tree care protocol.
Bristol says she’s optimistic that Western will rejoin Tree Campus after this year.