A small group of adults stand by a newly planted tree in an urban back yard.
Treesilience project partners and homeowner, Dorothy Collins (second from right) pose with one of the new trees planted in her back yard.

Stories in Missouri

Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities

Treesilience in St. Louis aims to grow a more resilient tree canopy

How to Participate in the Program If you're a homeowner in North St. Louis County and would like more information on this program please call or email for more information: (314) 533-5323 or 314trees@gmail.com.

Over the next three years, a new Treesilience program will be growing in St. Louis City and North St. Louis County. The Nature Conservancy, Forest ReLeaf of Missouri and Davey Tree Expert Company have been awarded a State Urban Forest Resilience grant from the National Association of State Foresters, and a Landscape Scale Restoration grant from the USDA Forest Service to support the buildout of the program. These grants together have helped to establish Treesilience in St. Louis, a tree health and youth green jobs initiative.

“We’re experiencing a great deal of canopy loss in St. Louis due to the Emerald Ash Borer,” says Rebecca Weaver, TNC’s cities program manager. “Through public-private partnerships with conservationists, local governments, community organizations and the public health sector, this new initiative will support a youth green jobs program, and conduct science-based, community-driven and equitable canopy restoration throughout St. Louis.”

 

A Treesilience yard sign in front of a house.
The program will support a youth green jobs program, and conduct science-based, community-driven and equitable canopy restoration through public-private partnerships within the St. Louis community.

The program will address dead, dying or hazardous trees on public lands in the City of St. Louis and on private lands of interested homeowners in North St. Louis County. Trees will be removed and replaced through local contracting, community-based replanting and stewardship education. 

“A healthy urban tree canopy means better air quality for our residents, which reduces rates of asthma. It helps save money on heating and cooling bills. It reduces the heat island effect and makes being outdoors more pleasant in the summer. It makes our neighborhoods safer and more attractive,” said Chris Krehmeyer, president and CEO of Beyond Housing, a Treesilience project partner. “All of these benefits are part of a comprehensive approach to strengthening our community.”

The costs of tree removal are prohibitive for many homeowners, and standing dead trees could pose threats to homes and people.

Cities Program Manager, TNC in Missouri

Rebecca states the costs of tree removal are prohibitive for many homeowners, and standing dead trees could pose threats to homes and people as major weather events continue to increase due to climate change. Additionally, these trees stand in places where new, healthy trees could be planted.

Our community trees provide us significant benefits, and we believe that everyone deserves access not only to trees and greenspaces but to healthy trees and green spaces," Rachel Holmes, TNC's urban forestry strategist. "Treesilience is a growing national initiative to level the planting field and eliminate the barriers to healthy tree canopy. We do this through mature tree pruning, removals, and site preparation – especially in communities with lower canopy coverage.”

A woman plants a new tree in the back yard of a house.
Tree Plantings Meridith Perkins, executive director of Forest ReLeaf of Missouri, helps plant a new tree during the kickoff of the Treesilience program in Pine Lawn, Missouri.

Treesilience officially kicked off in St. Louis in Fall 2021 with a tree removal and planting in Pine Lawn. The program builds on work from Beyond Housing and their urban tree canopy analysis. It includes an outreach and prioritization process to determine focus areas for the program within the 24:1 Community—a group of nearly two dozen municipalities in North St. Louis County that have joined together to improve their communities and their residents’ quality of life.

“Our Canopy Crew will train emerging conservation professionals to evaluate the health of standing ash trees to identify trees to be replaced and communities interested in stewarding replacement trees,” says Meridith Perkins, executive director of Forest ReLeaf of Missouri. 

She says Treesilience will help to support the Canopy Crew Program and will hire local youth to advance this project’s goals and increase green jobs training opportunities in the region. 

The remains of a large tree that was removed lay on the ground with a piece of the tree showing a large stress fracture down the middle.
Tree Removal Davey Tree Expert Company removes a large hazardous sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) tree during the Treesilience kickoff event.

Removal of the trees will be completed by project partner Davey Tree Expert Company, and stump grinding will be completed through local contractors from the community. As part of the work, Davey staff will engage the Canopy Crew in career exposure activities during the removal and treatment process.

For every tree removed, the team will replant two trees through Forest ReLeaf of Missouri’s tree nursery and giveaway program. The Canopy Crew will continue to support the community throughout the tree planting process and afterward through the replacement trees’ establishment period.

Increasing Tree Canopy For every tree removed, two trees will be replanted. Here, Treesilience project partners and neighbors help plant a new tree during the Treesilience kickoff event.

Due to the statewide organizational reach of both TNC and Forest ReLeaf of Missouri, the partners hope this program can be replicated across the state. “There are many communities throughout Missouri that stand to lose tree canopy and that suffer from inequitable access to tree canopy already,” says Rebecca. 

“We hope the Treesilience pilot program inspires other communities to proactively pursue similar initiatives that enhance urban landscapes and provide learning opportunities for young people.”

The Treesilience initiative will continue to assess, remove and replant trees through 2023. Continue to check back to see our progress.

How to Participate in the Program

If you're a homeowner in North St. Louis County and would like more information on this program, please call or email for more information: (314) 533-5323 or 314trees@gmail.com.

Hazardous Trees A large stress fracture was running through this tree, posing a threat to the homeowner and nearby neighbors. The tree was removed at no cost to the homeowner as part of the Treesilience program.

Benefits to the Community

Treesilience aims to help residents in the 24:1 Community in North St. Louis County, like Dorothy Collins. In fall 2021, a large sweetgum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua)  was removed from alongside her house as part of the program. The tree, which had a huge stress fracture, was posing a threat to her house and her safety.

Following the tree’s removal, Dorothy thanked the foresters and partners. “I’m thankful for everyone here and I’m relieved to get rid of that tree…I really am,” she said. Dorothy said she is also excited to watch her new trees grow.

A celebratory ceremony and tree planting was held in her back yard as two new black gum trees (Nyssa sylvatica) were planted in its place. Dorothy, along with Terry Epps the Mayor of Pine Lawn, Bettie Lee, Pine Lawn Alderwoman, and project partners placed the trees, packed them in with mulch and named them.

A small group of people in front of a house speaking to neighbors who have gathered for the event.
Community Collaboration Pine Lawn Mayor Terry Epps, addresses the crowd who gathered for the Treesilience kickoff ceremony. Project partners took turn speaking about the importance of the program.
A small group of people shovel dirt around a newly planted tree.
Ceremonious New Tree (left-right) Alderwoman Bettie Lee, Mayor Terry Epps, and homeowner Dorothy Collins plant the first of two trees during the Treesilience kickoff ceremony.
Community Collaboration Pine Lawn Mayor Terry Epps, addresses the crowd who gathered for the Treesilience kickoff ceremony. Project partners took turn speaking about the importance of the program.
Ceremonious New Tree (left-right) Alderwoman Bettie Lee, Mayor Terry Epps, and homeowner Dorothy Collins plant the first of two trees during the Treesilience kickoff ceremony.

Dorothy will receive support from the Canopy Crew for the new trees as they get established and begin to grow.

Removal of dead, dying and hazardous trees is only one of the benefits that this program provides. Many people who live in the communities in and around North St. Louis County also suffer from higher rates of asthma and other respiratory illness due to poor air quality, as shown in the St. Louis EcoUrban Assessment.

A large group of people stand in a neighborhood street taking photos with their mobile phones.
A Community Program Pine Lawn community members and neighbors gather to participate in the Treesilience kickoff event, which included a tree removal and replanting.

“Studies have shown that respiratory health can be improved by the expansion of healthy tree cover in areas with higher air pollution,” says Rebecca.

Thanks to the Treesilience program, Dorothy now has peace of mind for her and her family’s safety, and two new trees that will grow and help the community breathe easier, too.