By Susan Redden
Tree planting in the wake of the devastating EF-5 tornado in Greensburg, Kan., will be one of the topics when the Missouri Community Forestry Council conducts its annual conference in March in Joplin.
Successes and failures in returning trees to the Greensburg landscape after the May 2007 twister will be discussed by Tim McDonnell, community forestry coordinator for the Kansas Forest Service.
“We’ll be getting an update on what they learned, and what their successes and failures were,” said Jon Skinner, an urban forester with the Missouri Conservation Department and a member of the forestry council.
Though “Preparedness Diminishes Disaster” will be the subject of the 20th annual conference, speakers will review tree planting efforts after another disaster — the May 2011 tornado in Joplin — and conference participants will participate in a tree planting project.
“It won’t have to do with tornadoes specifically,” Skinner said. “It will be about storm preparation and response, what happens during a storm, and how to repair damage.”
Forestry specialists who have responded to storms on the East Coast and the Gulf Coast will be speakers, along with representatives of groups that have dealt with trees affected by flooding and ice storms.
The council is a statewide group that shares information on the best ways to preserve, protect and expand urban and community forests. Members have been active in Joplin since the tornado. The conference will include an update on Joplin tree planting efforts including Forest ReLeaf of Missouri, which has organized volunteers and nonprofit organizations to work in tree restoration.
“If a person in the tornado zone would like to plant some trees, Forest ReLeaf is providing them at no charge,” Skinner said. “They can get them through the Joplin parks office. Applications are available from my office and available on the city of Joplin’s website.”
Hundreds of trees have been planted in Joplin since the tornado, and Skinner said there still is much to be done.
“The city is going to have all the parks that were damaged replanted within a year, and they’re beginning to work on the streets, now,” he said.
Joplin’s tree planting efforts still are under threat by drought conditions in the region, and more recently planted trees could be lost if conditions persist.
“If not for the (state) Workforce Investment Board crews and all the volunteers who came in last summer and formed bucket brigades, we would have lost 70 to 80 percent of the trees in the parks,” Skinner said. “I’m afraid we’re not expecting that level of support this summer, so if the drought continues, we could still lose a lot of trees.”
THE CONFERENCE is set for March 5-7 at the Joplin Holiday Inn Convention Center. The event is open to the public. Early registration, at a discounted rate of $160, ends today. The conference agenda and registration information are available at www.mocommunitytrees.org.