Gov wants new Utah state tree: populus tremuloides, AKA Quaking Aspen
Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert recently announced his intentions to have the aspen named as the new state tree, and Sen. Ralph Okerland from Sevier County will sponsor a bill proposing the change from the Colorado blue spruce to the aspen in the upcoming session of the Utah Legislature.
The idea for the change came about during a congressional staff ATV ride briefing and issues tour. Every year, Russ Cowley, executive director of Six County Association of Governments, provides a public land issues educational tour for elected officials and members of their staffs during the congressional recess.
This year's tour was on the Fishlake National Forest Trail and included a presentation by Jody Gale, Utah State University Extension agent for Sevier County, on forestry and aspen issues and USU Extension's role in managing them. During Gale's presentation, Sevier County Commissioner Gordon Topham suggested to a member of the governor's staff that the state tree be changed.
Gale was asked to give the same forestry presentation for Herbert, and during the Rural Partnership Meeting, the governor heard from fourth graders from Monroe Elementary School who advocate changing the state's official tree. Among the reasons they gave for honoring the aspen is that the Pando clone, a huge stand of aspens in the Fishlake National Forest, has the distinction of being the largest living organism on Earth.
Another is that aspens are synonymous in many peoples' minds with western mountain landscapes and it seems more fitting to honor a tree that isn't named for a neighboring state.
Herbert took the children's message to heart, and a decision regarding adopting the aspen as the state tree will be made at the legislative session this winter.