By Associated Press - Monday, April 27, 2015

BROOKINGS, S.D. (AP) - The expansion of fraternities and sororities at South Dakota State University could threaten a pristine swath of trees.

Planning documents approved earlier this month by the state Board of Regents include potential housing lots in the South Dakota State Arboretum, a collection of tree species paid for by donors and planted for academic purposes.

Retired horticulture instructor Norm Evers, who designed the 45-acre arboretum decades ago, is worried about its future.

“It’s no different than a museum, and it should have the same kind of protection,” he told the Argus Leader newspaper ( ).

The university no longer uses the arboretum like it used to, and the land targeted for development is “minimally maintained,” said Barry Dunn, dean of the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences.

SDSU officials said there are no immediate plans to develop the sites, and that doing so would require the approval of the commissioner of school and public lands and the governor.

Even if student housing is built on the lots, the university could move the trees or build around them, said Doug Wermedal, associate vice president of student affairs. Designers have taken similar steps to preserve trees and green space around other building projects, he said.

“That same care and effort would be made in anything that would land in the arboretum portion of this,” Wermedal said.

Evers said arboretums are important for research on trees.

“It doesn’t come out of the blue. It comes from arboretums,” he said.


Information from: Argus Leader,

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