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Community Restores Health to Natural Asset

An urban forest nestled next to two Kansas City, Mo. public schools--J.A. Rogers Elementary School and Trailwoods Elementary School--is healthier thanks dedicated community members and conservation partners. A Tree Resource Improvement Maintenance (TRIM) grant provided to Heartland Conservation Alliance by Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) funded the third cohort of Green Guard this spring.

Molly Gosnell, Midwest GeoInfo, took the first step to a healthy forest with an inventory, completed this winter. Next, Molly shared her findings and expertise with local residents and urban youth as part of the Green Guard Stewardship Program. Students learned how to identify trees and why trees matter to our communities.

“The inventory provides a snapshot of species diversity, age, health and location of trees,” explains Wendy Sangster, Community Forester with MDC. “It show the work needed to restore forest health.”

This inventory revealed that the 20-acre forest has more biodiversity than most urban forests in Missouri. The value of the trees is more than $1 million (the cost to replace each tree with a similar tree) and these trees annually provide more than $12,000 in stormwater runoff prevention, pollution removal and carbon sequestration.

Green Guard connects some of our many our expert partners including Midwest GeoInfo, Kansas City WildLands, Heartland Tree Alliance to communities so we can have a collective impact caring for valuable natural resources, like this urban forest.

“This inventory provides an excellent opportunity to discuss the value of diversity in a forest,” describes Green Guard teacher Amanda Gehin, Heartland Tree Alliance. Gehin used the inventory in her teaching this spring at at J.A. Rogers Elementary. “The kids get really curious about which tree species is represented by each color.”

TOP: Friends, family and partners helped celebrate nine Green Guard Stewards graduating on Monday, May 7, 2018 at the Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center with the support of our partners and the community. MIDDLE: Green Guard Steward, Trania Thomas, restoring the forest patch. BOTTOM RIGHT: Green Guard Stewards hear from Lakeside Nature Center learn about local wildlife and how to safely interact with them.

This spring, Green Guard also introduced stewards to important environmental issues like biodiversity, watershed health, and holistic community health and leadership. They learned and connected with experts from the conservation community. This spring they used the tree inventory to inform their restoration of the forest. The inventory showed the need to remove plants that invade and harm urban forests, such as honeysuckle, wintercreeper and multiflora rose. Linda Lehrbaum, Kansas City WildLands provided instruction on identification and proper removal.

Graduates reported a deeper understanding of the importance of nature. They enjoyed new experiences and new friendships.

“It is so rewarding to see stewards--young and old--working together to care for these important and beautiful places in our neighborhoods,” said Jill Erickson, HCA Executive Director. “Our partners also express appreciation for opportunities to work in the community.”

You can join the work and help Green Guard Stewards in restoring health to the forest and surrounding community as they lead FAMILY + NATURE DAYS May 12 and 19 at Blue Valley Park from 9 am – 12 pm.

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