Committed to Community Trees

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Published on: Apr. 18, 2014

Missourians love nature. We love our forests, fish, and wildlife for both common and personal reasons. Whether out in the woods or in the heart of our cities, we desire that connection. So we value city parks, greenway trails, tree-lined city streets and our backyard retreats — but these resources do more than just improve the view, especially in regard to our urban trees.

Trees in the city provide extensive and measurable social, environmental, and economic benefits. Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of these services. In order to better serve our citizens, and share the importance of our urban trees, we sent out an opinion survey.

The Department of Conservation’s Resource Science and Forestry divisions teamed up to develop the survey and learn how to better serve Missourians. Our goal was to determine citizens’ most pressing issues, gauge support for two hypothetical ballot issues, and find out how much citizens knew about tree programs in their communities. We also asked city leaders about their local agencies charged with managing urban trees, their budgets and personnel levels, and to determine which urban forestry issues were priorities. The responses to these questions revealed encouraging trends for our future.

Don’t Hold Back

Surveys were distributed in 2004 and 2012 to assess the opinions of citizens and city leaders. While the surveys were short, less than 20 questions, we learned a lot about how people felt about trees and how far they would go to have and care for trees in their yards or on city streets. This information is valuable to urban forest managers, city planners, political leaders, road and storm-water engineers, and other professionals working in our communities. Two cycles of surveys, each statistically representing all Missouri communities and residents, provided solid insight on opinions and trends.

Key trends for residents and public officials show communities are getting more trained staff to manage their trees, that residents are willing to pay taxes for city managed trees, that trees should be protected during urban development, and that fewer people think tree topping is a healthy practice for trees. Most importantly, Missourians think trees are part of a city’s infrastructure and just as important as streets and utilities.

The resident survey results show high importance for trees along streets and parks, for cleaning of our water and air, planting and care of new trees, and pruning for tree safety. Across all city sizes, 53 percent

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