Trees Work for Wildlife and People

By Ann Koenig | February 19, 2015
From Missouri Conservationist: Mar 2015

Did you know that being around trees lowers your blood pressure and pulse rate? Or that kids perform better on tests and have reduced ADHD symptoms after being in nature? Trees along streets also raise home values by $8,000 on average. Trees work. At the same time they provide habitat for wildlife, wood products, and shade for our homes, trees work in other incredibly important and surprising ways we are only beginning to understand.

The Missouri Department of Conservation has a created an educational campaign called Trees Work to increase awareness of the benefits our trees and forests provide. Many of us appreciate the beauty of an oak releasing its tender spring leaves, or a maple shading our deck without being aware of the real and valuable benefits those trees provide for our health, our families, our wallets, and our environment. The Trees Work campaign helps Missourians discover all the ways trees and forests are working for us in our everyday lives. It also provides information about how you can promote good forest management, no matter the size of your property.

Trees Work for Leslie Stephens

As part of the Trees Work campaign, the Department produced a series of posters, each with a different slogan that begins, “Without trees … ” and ends, “Trees Work!” For instance, the first poster says, “Without trees … hammocks would just be blankets on the ground.” Each poster is handcrafted in St. Louis using vintage letterpress and carvings from Missouri-grown wood. For the latest poster, the Department wanted to hear what Missourians had to say. We sponsored a contest to finish the phrase, “Without trees … ” and encouraged Missourians to enter in their own slogan.

When Leslie Stephens of Troy heard about the Trees Work contest to finish the phrase, “Without trees … ” she dug into her personal life to come up with her own slogan, one that seemed true and important to her.

For Leslie, her husband, Matt, and their three boys, Missouri’s forests and rivers are a major part of their lives. Leslie took her middle son on a three-day float trip when he was 17 months old and she was 7½ months pregnant with her youngest. Since then, the family has often canoed on the Current, Eleven Point, and Jack’s Fork rivers in Missouri. Leslie says, “Since my boys were babies, they have been on the river as much as possible — swimming, canoeing, rock hunting, hiking, exploring, camping, kayaking, and fishing. It’s just what we do!”

Since she and her family try to buy local and wooden products rather than imported plastic items whenever possible, Leslie is proud of the wooden paddles she uses in their canoe.

Products Provide Clean Rivers and Wood Products

Leslie could have crafted a Trees Work slogan about how pretty trees are in the fall or how they provide shade in the summer. But what most excites Leslie, who is also a Stream Team leader, is how Missouri’s forests provide clean rivers for her family to enjoy and a local, renewable building resource — wood for her canoe paddles. So she offered a trees work slogan that meant the most to her and her family: “Without trees … we’d be up a creek without a paddle.”

Department foresters, marketing and media specialists, and designers reviewed the entries, and Leslie’s slogan, number 932 of 1,326, was the clear winner.

For more information about how trees and forests benefit you, tree and forest resources, and how to order Trees Work posters to display in your area, visit

Missouri Department of Conservation Forester Ann Koenig leads the Trees Work campaign. Ann and her family live in Columbia. When she’s not busy touting the benefits of trees and forests, Ann enjoys reading and running, cooking, gardening, camping, swimming, and boating.

Trees Work for Our Well-being

  • Seeing trees can improve worker attendance and performance.
  • Employees with views of nature report 15 percent fewer illnesses and feel more enthusiastic and less frustrated than those without a view of nature.
  • A room with a view can help us recover from surgery faster. In a six-year study, hospital patients recovering from surgery who had a view of trees through their windows required fewer pain relievers and left the hospital a day sooner than similar patients who had a view of a brick wall.
  • Those who commute along tree-lined roads remain calmer (with lower pulse and blood pressure) and drive less aggressively than those who drive along roads with fewer trees.
  • People report that woods and parks offer a better place for reflective thought, resting the mind, and creative thinking than their homes.
  • Trees reduce noise. One-hundred-foot-long plantings of tall trees can reduce loudness by 50 percent.
  • Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) experience symptom relief after spending time in an area with trees. Kids are better able to concentrate, complete tasks, and follow directions after playing in natural settings.
  • Because tree-lined streets are more walkable than those with no trees, they help people lose weight and improve heart health. In addition, they promote physical activity in children and longevity in the elderly.
  • Contact with nature helps children to develop imagination and creativity, intellectual capacity, and social relationships.
  • Shade trees planted where children play protect them from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation.
  • For each pound of new wood a tree grows, it removes about 1.8 pounds of harmful carbon dioxide from the air and produces 1.3 pounds of oxygen for us to breathe.

Get a Poster, Spread the Word

If there’s a public place where you’d like to display a Trees Work poster (coffee shop, restaurant, community center, library, city hall, and church are a few examples) email us at for a free poster, while supplies last.

Also In This Issue

Libby Schwartz and her husband Charles
Women continue to shape the future of conservation in Missouri.
Tom Turkey
To bag your bird, it helps to understand turkey communication.

This Issue's Staff

Editor In Chief - Nichole LeClair Terrill
Art Director - Cliff White
Staff Writer/Editor - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Circulation - Laura Scheuler