Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities
Treesilience in St. Louis aims to grow a more resilient tree canopy
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
“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.