Sarah Crowder: Everyone has a story about a tree. You know, you, you played under one, or maybe you had even a bad experience. But people have experiences with trees. You know, maybe a limb fell on your house or something. But it's really important to bring in that personal aspect because again, what we have right now is not what will be here for our future. So that is one of our biggest goals, is to be able to provide trees and green space and places where everybody, no matter where you live, you can walk to and see these spaces and be within them.
Jill Pritchard: Hey there, and welcome back to Nature Boost. I'm Jill Pritchard. When you think of the outdoors, trees are the backdrop in every image. One thing I love about trees is that no two are alike, yet all are magnificent. Trees reflect the changing seasons. They signify strength and beauty and longevity. In honor of Arbor Day this month, I wanted to put the spotlight on trees and explore just how much they work for us every day.
Here with me today is Holly Dentner. Holly is MDC's Forestry Outreach and Communications Program Supervisor, and also is the Coordinator of MDC's Trees Work campaign. Holly, thank you so much for speaking with me today.
Holly Dentner: Thanks for having me, Jill!
Jill Pritchard: So, the Trees Work campaign was created to increase awareness on the benefits of trees.
Holly Dentner: Yes.
Jill Pritchard: And uh, I really love that idea because you know, no matter who you are, where you live, you've seen a tree. And you're benefitting from trees.
Holly Dentner: Yup. Um-hmm, in ways you don't even think about.
Jill Pritchard: Right! Exactly. So um, let's explore that a little bit. Tell us how the Trees Work campaign works to spread that awareness.
Holly Dentner: Sure. Well, we started out with this basic premise that most people are generally aware that trees are good for the environment. They're part of the environment. They clean our air, they clean our water, etc., etc. But we've learned, uh, since about the '80s that there's this whole, um, other side of benefits of trees that people don't always think about. The impact for your health, physical and mental, the wellness for your kids, even an economic benefit of trees. You know, communities with trees that line the downtown streets, the businesses there make more money because of the trees there. They have this impact. They draw people in, they make people feel better. They just have amazing benefits that people don't always think about every day. So that's why we wanted Trees Work to help share that message and help people understand that these are real intangible benefits that impact them every single day.
Jill Pritchard: So through this campaign, you know, what type of programs or events, um, is Trees Work offering to kind of educate people on that?
Holly Dentner: Sure. A lot of times, we'll just set up a booth at a local event, like a local farmers' market. We used to do those quite a bit, where we just hand out material and talk to people and give away tree seedlings. We did it at the Roots and Blues Festival last year. We were at the True Falls Film Festival in Columbia. It's a movie festival documentary. It's really cool, and there's all sorts of people always milling around downtown. So, we set out a really cool booth there to talk to people about trees, kind of connected it with, you know, the themes of the film festival. And people really respond really positively to that. You know, you walk up to somebody and tell them, you know, that the tree on the sidewalk is worth is X amount of dollars in benefits, and they're like wow, they didn't ever really think about that.
Jill Pritchard: It's interesting whenever you put it into like a monetary value, just how much they do for us.
Holly Dentner: Yeah, yeah. Even the trees in your backyard have an actual monetary value for your home. Your property value is on average about $8000 more if you've got several mature trees in your yard. Your air conditioning in the summer is going to be, it's going to be less hard on the system, your air conditioning, your heating and cooling in the summer and the winter, if you've got trees around because they provide shade and windbreaks. And that's saving you real money. And they're trees, you know? They're trees! [Laughing.]
Jill Pritchard: They're trees! They're just trees.
Holly Dentner: It's like the pavement in the sidewalk. You don't think about it, but they're always there, the grass and the trees and the nature. Even in the middle of town, you know, we work for conservation and we're always helping people understand about the value of wildlife and how important it is to be in nature, and how important all of our native species are. And one of the most important things are the trees that support all of that habitat.
Jill Pritchard: We can take them for granted, you know. I think, uh, most people go about their days. They don't, um, they aren't really conscious of trees. And hey, you know, that tree is providing, um, you know, habitat for squirrels and for birds, and you know, other types of wildlife. And trees even provide us with food.
Holly Dentner: Um-hmm. And at the same time, we know that - and studies have proven - that people that even can see trees from their office at work, or if they're in the hospital recovering from surgery, if they can see trees and green space from their window, it actually helps them work better, stay focused, and heal faster if you're in the hospital. There are documented studies for that. There was a study in early 2020 where people, like 20,000 people that are in this study. And they measured how much time they spent outdoors, and then how their general feelings of wellness. And like 120 minutes, it was like very strange. It was very specific. 120 minutes a week. Um, no less. It had to be at least 120 minutes in increments or all at once. You spend that time outdoors, and there was a significant difference in how people felt both physically and mentally who got that 120 minutes a week. They were all you know, like, they all said they felt so much better mentally, physically, had lost weight, all of that, just for being outside. And it's not like, you know, they're running marathons or trying to hike 10 miles in the woods. It's just literally being outside in the woods or in your neighborhood park. It makes a huge difference for people's wellness.
Jill Pritchard: It does. And I, uh, love what you said earlier about green space. That is a topic we've been talking about all this season, just again, how being outside is just so good for you not only mentally, but physically as well. And when you think about it, it almost wouldn't be a green space without trees, you know? That's a big part of it, you know? Again, that forest bathing, I'm sure you've heard about, that's you know, been kind of a big topic of discussion, you know, just being out in nature. It really wouldn't be the same without trees.
Holly Dentner: That's so funny that you would say that because we had, as part of the Trees Work campaign, we had this whole, whole poster series that we did that were, um, on kind of a play on words, without trees thing. So, you know, without trees, 2x4s would be 0x0.
Jill Pritchard: [Laughing.]
Holly Dentner: And without trees, hammocks would just be blankets on the ground. And without trees, baseball would just be a game of catch. You know, all the little ways trees make our lives better, and without them, where are we? We're just nowhere.
Jill Pritchard: Absolutely, yeah. It's, I think it's something we all, uh should appreciate a little bit more, you know, being outside, for sure. I think it's great because it also educates people on tree identification, and as well as you know, if you're a homeowner or you know, you have some property, it teaches people about tree care and maintenance as well.
Holly Dentner: Absolutely. That's a big component. We want people to know the value of trees, but we want to enable them and give them the tools they need to improve the trees and woodlands on their property, whether they've got a backyard or they've got 40 acres. Trees Work is here to help guide you in making the right decisions and planting the right trees and improving your property no matter what so it not only benefits you, but benefits the town and the county and the entire state.
Jill Pritchard: People, I think, should also be aware that we have staff members who can go out to homeowners' property and you know, talk about how to improve habitat for wildlife and proper, um, tree maintenance as well.
Holly Dentner: No matter what your goals are for your property, if you've got 100 acres and you just want to see more deer and turkey, we've got staff that can come out and help you figure out what improvements might make that more habitable for that kind of wildlife. If you've got 100 acres and you think you've got some mature trees that are at the end of their lifespan, and you want to have them harvested to make some money, you know, timber sale, we can help you do that. Our foresters are super qualified. Even if you just want to know what kind of tree species you have, if you think you've got a lot of ash trees and you know that, you know, there's an insect now, the ash bore, that's going to come in and wipe out all those ash trees, even if you're not really sure what the ash tree looks like, we can give you information and help guide you and make those decisions.
Jill Pritchard: Very good. Very good information to know. And, uh, Holly, do you have anything else you'd like people to be aware of as far as just trees or the Trees Work campaign?
Holly Dentner: I do. I have one really important thing to mention, and that is, a lot of people don't know that, but the Department of Conservation actually has a tree nursery. And we grow seedlings and sell them to people at a very, very reasonable rate. You can get bundles of 10 or 25 from our nursery. Go online mdc.mo.gov/seedlings and see what we've got available. We start shopping those in March and April, and we, um, start taking orders every September. And it's just a great opportunity if you've got a back yard or if you've got lots of acreage, you can plant some trees. Because one of the most important things we need people to do is plant more trees. It makes everything better.
Jill Pritchard: Absolutely. And planting native, for sure.
Holly Dentner: Absolutely, yes.
Jill Pritchard: [Laughing.] That could almost be another episode. [Laughing.]
Holly Dentner: That's true.
Jill Pritchard: That is great information. And where can people go? Can you direct anybody to, direct people to any resources online if they'd like to get more information?
Holly Dentner: Of course! Yeah, if you want to go online, you can go to treeswork.org for lots of good tree maintenance, tree ID, learn more about the benefits, get links to all the research, and of course the MDC website is great. You can just, there's a tree care tab at the top. You can click on that and find all sorts of awesome information there, too.
Jill Pritchard: OK, awesome. Holly, thank you so much for speaking with me today. I really appreciate the info.
Holly Dentner: It was fun! Anytime.
Jill Pritchard: It's time for a quick break, but stay tuned because when we come back, we'll hear from a Kansas City nonprofit that's striving for a healthier and happier environment through tree advocacy.
[Twilight Zone music.]
Male: Picture your town in spring. Trees with white flowers bloom. But trouble grows fast and thorny. Callery pear trees have cross pollinated into a nightmare. Weak wood topples in your homes and power lines. Also known as Bradford Pear; or Cleveland Select, they quickly overtake fields and parks, displacing native plants and animals. Pull, cut, spray to stop the invasion in your outdoor zone. Buy native trees. Join the fight with mssouriconservation.org.
Jill Pritchard: Welcome back to Nature Boost. Trees are such a vital part of our landscape, and don't get the recognition they deserve. But one nonprofit based out of Kansas City is working to put trees in the spotlight. Bridging the Gap works to make the KC region sustainable by connecting the environment, economy, and community through many different programs. One of those programs is the Heartland Tree Alliance. I learned more from HTA's program manager, Sarah Crowder.
Sarah Crowder: Our mission is, um, or sort of our vision, is to build stronger communities through healthy trees. Uh, we want to, um, encourage people to maintain the trees they have, but also to plant new trees. So that's the goal we're working towards. We utilize all volunteers to do this work, and we have lots of metropolitan partners, whether they may be in the cities, that we come in and we help do some maintenance. Um, a lot of cites, um, are cutting their budgets for different reasons. And often, tree care gets cut. Maintenance staff gets cut. So, we bring in volunteers. We train them, and we come in and we do mulching of young trees. We do pruning of young trees, which is so vitally important for the tree to reach maturity so we can catch some of those problems early on.
So, we have education, um adult education as well as children education. We go into the classroom. So really, we are just trying to spread the love about trees, um, to really anybody that will lend an ear.
Jill Pritchard: And another way that you do that is through your tree tags during the month of April, in honor of Arbor Day.
Sarah Crowder: Yes.
Jill Pritchard: So, tell us a little more about that.
Sarah Crowder: Yes. So, the tree tags was started a few years ago. Those are a price tag. They look like a large, white price tag with a dollar amount on it. It uses the iTree data to determine the life, the life of the tree that we hang it on. Um, the savings that that tree will provide to the community. And that's through stormwater abatement, pollutants, filtration, and other benefits, aesthetic benefits and property value benefits. And then we hang these price tags on the trees, and it's usually around April, which is Arbor Day. And just to bring awareness, and we have several communities that partner with us to hang those throughout the metro.
Jill Pritchard: I love that. I think that's such a really cool way to, like you say, help spread that awareness because again, you know, trees, such a common part of the landscape. And I think it's easy to forget how much they really do for us on the daily.
Sarah Crowder: Right.
Jill Pritchard: And so, um, a lot of things, you know, in addition to providing us oxygen and shade, you know, some things that people may not know that trees do, some benefits of them, you know. They absorb sound. You know, I've seen things where they can actually increase business traffic, and they can reduce crime in neighborhoods and, you know, things like that. So uh, I think that's great that you guys are spreading that awareness through those tree tags, and of course everything else that you do. Um, so again, it's just great to remind people just how much trees do for us.
Something else is that some trees provide more benefits than others, correct?
Sarah Crowder: Correct, yeah. Oftentimes, the one we use a lot, because we are in this urban area, is pollutants and particulates in our air. So um, trees, you mentioned that they muffle noise and keep sound as a barrier from highways. But they also help filter the air before you breathe it. So, trees with a larger leaf area tend to have more benefits for that. The pollutants stick to the leaf area. So, the larger the leaf, the better. So, uh, those can be really beneficial, yeah.
Jill Pritchard: I, again, learning about all of this, it's just, it really, it opens, it opens up your mind whenever, every time you look at a tree now.
Sarah Crowder: Yeah.
Jill Pritchard: And one thing I've always found fascinating about trees is that they outlive humans, you know?
Sarah Crowder: Yes.
Jill Pritchard: They can be so, they can be thousands of years old and you know, you look at a tree and you just kind of think, man, what has that tree seen?
Sarah Crowder: And that's a huge piece. Um, we talk about trees as a legacy. They are absolutely a legacy. You know, the trees that we're planting, that I'm planting in my lifetime, are for my daughter and my grandkids, you know. And that's a hard thing sometimes for people to grasp and wrap their head around. But, um, it's important to bring in that personal aspect because everyone has a story about a tree. You know, you played under one. Or maybe you had even a bad experience. But people have experiences with trees. You know, maybe a limb fell on your house or something. But it's really important to bring in that personal aspect because again, what we have right now is not what will be here for our future.
Jill Pritchard: Well said. And especially in urban settings, too. You know, this season in Nature Boost podcasts, we've been talking about, um, nature's effect on our overall wellbeing, on our mental and our physical health. And um, especially when people live in more of an urban area, I think the need for a green space is even greater.
Sarah Crowder: Oh, it's huge. And like you touched on, the mental health benefits of spending time outside in green space, even seeing it out your window, I mean the data supports all of these things. The lower crime rates, the slower traffic speeds, um, the increased businesses, the savings in your utility bills, I mean the benefits are all absolutely there. And it's showing people, um, how important that they are.
Jill Pritchard: Yeah. Absolutely. And again, even living in a bigger city can be stressful, you know? And again, it's, it's nice to have that, um, chill time.
Sarah Crowder: Right. Right? Yeah, we do some education with Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and I always say, I mean who goes on a hike in the woods and feels more stressed at the end, you know? Who feels worse after you spent time outside? And everyone's like, I'm tired, I feel more relaxed. And I'm like, exactly. That's, that's the feeling that everybody should have the ability, and it should be afforded the ability to have spaces like that to spend time. And so that is one of our biggest goals, is to be able to provide trees and green space and places where everybody, no matter where you live, you can walk to and see these spaces and be within them.
Jill Pritchard: That's a beautiful mission.
Sarah Crowder: Yeah.
Jill Pritchard: And so, getting back to your volunteers, so I follow you guys on social media.
Sarah Crowder: Yeah, great.
Jill Pritchard: And um, I highly recommend that everybody does that, because um, you guys post green tips, you know, for better environmental living and um, little things that you can do, you know, each day to kind of lessen your impact on the environment. But something also that you do is you post little, uh, you feature your volunteers on there, and kind of little backgrounds on them. And I think that's really a great way to get the word out about being a volunteer, too, um, because it just shows that you don't have to have a background in this to be involved.
Sarah Crowder: Absolutely. And that's a new piece that we just started, and we're really excited about that because we do want to highlight that we have a really diverse mix of people that come out. We have people that have loved the environment, grew up spending time outside and knew that they wanted to do that kind of volunteerism. And then we have other people that just kind of, it fell into their lap. And they're experiencing a lot of things for the first time. So, for all of our programs, you do not have to have any experience in the work that you're doing. We spend a lot of time, 30 minutes to 45 minutes at the beginning of every single work day, talking about what we're doing and the importance of what you're doing. We provide all of the tools and we provide all of that expertise and oversight with either lead volunteers or staff. So really, it's a fun environment. We have a lot of corporate groups that come out. It can definitely be a team building exercise. There's a little bit of competition that comes into play there. Um, or it can just be come bring your family and spend time together doing something that is going to make a lasting impression, whether it's trees or picking up litter or removing invasives to release these beautiful native plants, or to see, you know, flowering prairie plants that haven't been around for, you know, ages.
Jill Pritchard: Yeah, absolutely. And again, touching on the social media, you guys also have a Twitter page for one of your trees!
Sarah Crowder: Yes, we do, Penny Oak. And Penny has been silent, uh, as of recent. But Penny is an oak in Loose Park, which is a large park here near the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri. And Penny was started a few years ago, and absolutely that's what it was, was an educational piece. And Penny's got some friends, some squirrel friends and some tree friends. But yes, she's a Twittering, a Twittering pin oak, actually, a very large pin oak that's located on the southeast end of Swope - of Loose Park.
Jill Pritchard: Do you happen to know how old?
Sarah Crowder: I don't know how old. You know, nothing has been cored. So, I'm not sure if the Parks Department even knows.
Jill Pritchard: And that's truly the only way to age a tree?
Sarah Crowder: In most cases, yes, is to do a small core like that and count the rings.
Jill Pritchard: What can people do if they'd like to get involved with Bridging the Gap?
Sarah Crowder: Sure. Well, you mentioned social media. That's a great way to follow us because we do, again, we have all these different programs. So that's what we try to feature when those workdays are coming up, volunteer needs. But also we have a newsletter. If you go to bridgingthegap.org and scroll to the bottom, it's called Connect With Us, and you can put in your email. We send out an eNews. It's not overly obtrusive. You might get a couple a month during our busy months, but in most cases, one or two. And it's information about what we might be up to, events that we might be having. Um, but those are two great ways. We also have an events page on our website. And it's a calendar of events. And right now, you'll see it's slow. We're in strategic planning mode for sure. In all the work that we do, we typically need a little bit of nicer weather to do that. So, we will really get going in March, and we work really hard through the nicer months. In the heat of the summer, we take maybe a little break. But there's always something. There's even office work, uh, sometimes that we might need if someone's looking to spend some time inside and help us with stuffing envelopes, or you know, so there's all kinds of needs - internships. We look for internships as well, so . . .
Jill Pritchard: Well, that's great! I think it's great that it's not something where you sign up and it's like, OK, we expect you to be at all of these. You know, you can kind of do it at your leisure and you know, whatever fits your schedule.
Sarah Crowder: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. We have events during the week, work week. We have events on weekends as well. We, as I mentioned, we run the recycling center, so we're always looking for like regular volunteers that might just want to come out and spend time at the recycling centers, a couple of hours. That's probably our most consistent and year-round need. But yeah. We do have the Tree Keepers. It's an adult program that we do that's an adult education program. And we do ask after you take the Tree Keepers that you potentially volunteer for 24 hours. But there's no rule book, and there's no sign-in, you know. It's just something, a commitment that we ask for. And sometimes we get it, and sometimes not.
Jill Pritchard: Nobody's following you around making sure you logged those hours.
Sarah Crowder: Right, right. Exactly. Exactly. It's just something we ask for.
Jill Pritchard: Well, I am glad to have spoken with you about this today.
Sarah Crowder: Thank you!
Jill Pritchard: Is there anything else you think that we need to touch on, or that you'd like to add as far as Bridging the Gap or the Heartland Tree Alliance?
Sarah Crowder: No, I don't think so. I think that no matter what part of the state you're listening from, or wherever you may be listening from, there are organizations like ours. If you're in the Kansas City metropolitan, check us out. Come volunteer for a couple different, um, types of work days. You might find something you really like. Or look in your area, because there are always needs of this sort where, um, the cities and other smaller nonprofits need volunteers. So just get out and make change.
Jill Pritchard: Very good. Thank you so much, Sarah.
Sarah Crowder: Yeah. Thank you.
Jill Pritchard: To learn more about the benefits of trees, visit treeswork.org, or to get more info on the Heartland Tree Alliance, visit bridgingthegap.org.
And that's a wrap on season one of Nature Boost. A big, big thank you to all of my guests this season, including MDC's Holly Dentner and Sarah Crowder with the Heartland Tree Alliance. I really hope you enjoyed listening to this season, and learned just how much nature impacts us every day, and hopefully come away with a new appreciation for it.
This is Jill Pritchard with the Missouri Department of Conservation urging you to get your daily dose of the outdoors.
[End of recording.]