First Lady Michelle Obama recently promised that the whole family would help work on the new organic White House garden, and President Obama made good on her pledge Wednesday morning. Donning a hard hat and safety goggles, the President lowered the blade of a bulldozer and uprooted a 126-year-old cherry tree planted by President Chester A. Arthur in 1883 to commemorate the signing of the Pendleton Act, which established the Civil Service Commission. (Official White House video.)
"Michelle had a very nice ceremony out here a couple days ago to break ground on a very important garden that will show Americans how to eat healthy by growing wholesome foods at home," he told reporters, according to the New York Times. "But that was what we call a ceremonial ground-breaking. This right here is, you know, the real deal. This is no holds barred gardening."
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was on hand, and he pledged to follow the Obama gardening method as he launches the USDA's community garden project across the country.
Vilsack, who oversees the U.S. Forest Service, has already taken steps to shift forest policy, as he told Oregon Public Radio recently. But Wednesday was the first time he spoke about a "garden-for-trees swap" policy, and forest preservation groups were quick to criticize the Obama Administration.
"The loss of this historic Rosaceae Prunus, which has stood tall for more than a century at the White House, is sad. But to announce this destructive policy at the start of Earth Month is an insult," American Forests Executive Director Deborah Gangloff said in a statement e-mailed to reporters. "Why, oh why, would President Obama do this on April 1?"
Update - April 2, 2009 Now that April Fool's Day has passed, it's worth noting that there is a reason Obama bulldozed the White House South Lawn on April 1...while simultaneously traveling in Europe to meet with global leaders as part of the G20 economic summit.
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