Together, the trees in and around a communitymake up what we call a community forest. These community forests require management to achieve their maximum benefit.
When trees are properly cared for, they contribute to a community and become a valuable part of its infrastructure. A managed, healthy community forest can cut heating and cooling costs, reduce stormwater runoff, increase property values and minimize air pollution. Managed community forests also better withstand insect and disease problems and major weather events.
Even though the benefits of a healthy community forest have been proven, a recent survey of public officials in Missouri showed that many communities do not budget for tree care.
Surveys also show that most Missourians want trees on streets and in parks and want to lose fewer trees during development. They also supported the Missouri Department of Conservation’s efforts to help communities include trees and green spaces in housing, business and shopping developments.
Time, money and interest are often in short supply when it comes to managing publicly owned trees. The Missouri Department of Conservation can help communities properly manage their green infrastructure by providing foresters to help train community employees on proper planting, pruning and care of trees. Foresters also can help select trees most suitable for planting spaces and identify priority maintenance needs, including trees that present a risk to the public.
In addition, the Tree Resource Improvement and Maintenance (TRIM) cost-share program provides funding on a competitive basis to help communities care for their trees. An average of 40 projects each year returns about $250,000 to Missouri communities.
For example, working from a plan developed by the Conservation Department and funded through TRIM, Saline County removed several trees, planted new ones and conducted two educational workshops in partnership with Saline County University of Missouri Extension office.
Describing the TRIM project, Saline County Presiding Commissioner Becky Plattner, said, “We’ve been reminded that we like to work together and that people coming together to solve problems and build on strength is powerful. The positive outcomes extend beyond trees.”
The Conservation Department also values forming partnerships with other organizations. A growing number of communities are investing time and energy in caring for their forests in hopes of being certified by The National Arbor Day Foundation as a Tree City USA community.
Partnership with the U.S. Forest Service’s State and Private Forestry organization enhances the Department’s ability to provide technical assistance. Partner support also makes available workshops like the recent Storm Preparedness and Response training held in Kirkwood and Hannibal.
The Conservation Department’s community forestry program is working to help cities and towns address their tree care needs. Through partnerships, we can have healthy community forests that provide benefits to Missourians today, tomorrow and for generations to come.
Robert L. Krepps, Forestry Division Administrator