MDC welcomes new community forester to southeast region

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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) welcomes Jennifer Behnken as the new community forester for Missouri’s southeast region. Behnken replaces Rocky Hayes, who was recently promoted to forestry regional supervisor.

A community forester develops urban tree planting and community forest plans, responds to requests for assistance with insect and disease problems, makes recommendations for building around trees and selection of tree species for plantings, works with Forest ReLeaf and Forest Keepers region wide, promotes National Arbor Day and Tree City USA programs, certifies champion trees, and responds to commercial, industrial, and utility requests for assistance with tree management, among other duties. Behnken began the position this spring and works out of the MDC’s Southeast Regional Office.

“Jennifer is no stranger to MDC, as she’s been an active volunteer at the Cape Girardeau Nature Center for the past six years, specializing in forestry programs and interpretation,” Hayes said.

Behnken has Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in forestry, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in music, all from Southern Illinois University. She has a diverse work background, most recently employed by the United States Forest Service, Natural Resource Conservation Service, and the National Wild Turkey Federation in a joint venture. Prior to that position, she was the urban and community forestry coordinator for Southern Illinois University for two years. She worked in two different positions for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources as their AmeriCorps environmental education coordinator and as a student intern. Behnken also has private sector experience having worked as a landscape designer and private consultant for the Delta Companies and Element 74.

“With her diverse educational background and extensive work experiences, Jennifer is a welcomed addition to Forestry Division and MDC,” Hayes said.

Behnken can be reached at (573)290-5730 or More information on Missouri’s forests can be found at