Students drive to spruce up state tree moves to full Senate

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By Mallory Jesperson:

SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns are tired of sharing with their neighbors, at least when it comes to their state tree that is.

Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, testifies in a Senate committee on Tuesday as Monroe Elementary students who suggested the state tree change look on.

The official state tree, also claimed by the state of Colorado, is the Blue Spruce.

Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, Sevier County, is scheduled to  discuss the bill on the Senate floor on Monday, Feb. 10, at 11 a.m  On Feb. 4, Okerlund  met with members of the Senate’s Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee to advance SB41. The bill would change the state tree to the Quaking Aspen and set Utah apart.

Angie Hunt Blomquist, a 4th grade teacher from Monroe Elementary, and her students joined Okerlund, in support of the bill. It was these young students who initially brought up the question of why we have to share our state tree with Colorado with Okerlund.

Many students attended the Senate committee to show their support of changing Utah’s state tree to the Aspen. They approached the microphone nervously, but were able to provide logical and well thought out reasons for why the state of Utah should make the switch.

One student said, “An Aspen grove has strong roots that work together like Utah families.”

Another young 4th grader even mentioned scientific facts that set the Aspen apart. She said, “Pando is a group of Aspen trees sharing the same root. Pando is the largest and oldest organism in the world.”

These children weren’t the only who favor the change.

Ryan Pearson, a USU ecologist who has specialized in Aspen studies for more than 20 years, and the state’s forester Brian Cottam, attended the committee hearing to lend support to axing the Blue Spruce as the state tree. They discussed how the current state tree only covers about 1 percent of Utah while the Quaking Aspen covers roughly 9-10 percent.

The bill passed the committee unanimously.

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