Two groups ring up dollar value of local trees

By Ryne Dittmer    

Liberty, MO (July 1, 2010)- Tree Liberty and Heartland Tree Alliance recently fastened signs to trees around downtown Liberty in an attempt to educate the public about the monetary value of trees. Beginning this past Arbor Day, oversized price tags were hung on a number of trees around the downtown Liberty Square as part of an initiative of the alliance. Each tag lists a monetary value on the potential lifetime benefits the respective tree will pay back to the area.

“The objective was to help the public and policymakers understand the real value trees are,” said Joan Steurer, who spearheaded the program along with Helene Miller, president of TreeLiberty. “Helene and I together came up with this idea to put tags on trees to make it more visible. We thought it was a good idea,” Steurer said. “Trees provide energy savings, pollution reduction and actually work as infrastructure for the city, reducing the amount of waste water that has to be treated.”

To determine the value of individual trees across the Northland a program called i-Tree from the U.S. Forestry Service was used. The scientifically based estimate incorporates the species, location and size of the tree in calculating the dollar value of benefits. “We wanted to take advantage of that program and promote the benefits trees provide,” Miller said. “Trees are providing a lot of benefits to the city and the citizens, and it adds up to a lot of money.”

In its first year, 100 tags were created and placed in eight different cities. In 2009, 140 tags were placed in 15 cities, and the outreach has continued to grow. “We are trying to get people to recognize, advocate for and take care of the urban forest, and understand the intricate roles they play,” said Bill Grotts, program manager for Bridging the Gap, the organization of which Heartland Tree Alliance is a branch.

The urban forest includes trees along streets, yards and businesses. Trees given tags were selected based on visibility around city parks and more heavily traveled roadways. It is the alliance’s hope that the tags will result in more political support and funding being directed toward sustaining urban forests. “I do know it does support the awareness. I’m not sure if it has raised allocated funds for tree planning and maintenance, but it reinforces the message,” Steurer said. “People have started to call and ask why they don’t have tags in their city or neighborhood.”

Other conservation initiatives in Liberty have been the result of a partnership between Heartland Tree Alliance and TreeLiberty. “We share a lot of members with TreeLiberty,” Grotts said. “We work alongside them, but there’s plenty of work to go around.”

Trees Into Art
* What: In a special tour created by the Heartland Tree Alliance, participants will explore the roles of trees as medium and art subject matter.
* When: Saturday, July 15 5:30 p.m.
* Where: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
* More info: Call Bill Grotts 816-561-1087, ext. 110, to reserve a spot

* What: organization meetings
* When: every third Thursday of the month
* Where: Liberty Community Center
* More info: Contact Helene Miller at 816-415-8237 to get involved.

Related Resources:
Liberty Tribune- Two groups ring up dollar value of local trees
Heartland Tree Alliance