Volunteers and local workers make a difference as drought threatens Joplin’s newly planted trees

Every year, natural disasters strike communities often resulting in a dramatic loss of trees that subsequently weakens the community’s environmental sustainability, economy, and sense of place.

Photo Credit: NPR.org

The Arbor Day Foundation’s Disaster Recovery Campaign is a structured response to the destruction caused by disasters in communities across the nation.   By collaborating and organizing with key state and local partners, the Arbor Day Foundation “facilitates the distribution of trees to citizens in communities in need.”

After the severe damage caused by the EF5 tornado that tore through Joplin in May 2011, a variety of organizations banded together to plant nearly 7,000 new trees in the devastated city.

Through a joint initiative with the Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center, the Arbor Day Foundation developed the Joplin Tree Recovery Campaign.  This campaign distributed 12,000 trees to residents in four Joplin-area locations.

Foundation officials have described the Joplin Tree Recovery Campaign as an effort to restore Joplin’s precious and beautiful tree canopy to what it was before the May tornado.

An NPR news article details that, “sturdy varieties such as oak, sycamore and redbud — trees that can withstand strong winds when they’re taller” have been planted throughout Joplin.

In spite of all the progress made through the combined efforts of local and national supporters, Joplin’s young, newly planted trees are now struggling to survive a different environmental threat: drought.

Tom Meyer, manager of Carson Nurseries in Springfield, explains that young “trees are especially vulnerable to the drought.”

According to Meyer:

Freshly planted trees are real reliant on human beings taking care of them.  They need to water right at the root base, and there’s very little root structure beyond what was just planted. They can’t bring in residual water from farther out.

Fortunately, students on mission trips, volunteers and other workers from around the Joplin area have formed “bucket brigades,” toting heavy, five gallon buckets of water in the searing heat to around 562 young trees planted in Joplin parks.

Photo Credit: Joplin Globe

Thanks to these efforts and the perseverance and dedication to the restoration of Joplin, Ric Mayer, Joplin’s tree coordinator, estimates that presently, less than three percent of the newly planted trees will not survive.

The battle for the trees’ survival is not yet over.  Mayer believes that if the volunteers keep at it, there is hope for saving most of the trees in Joplin parks, but volunteers tend to be in short supply through August and September.

Any volunteers who want to water the trees in Joplin’s parks are welcome.  Homeowners are advised to not neglect their newly planted trees as well.

If you would like to donate to the Arbor Day Foundation’s Joplin Tree Recovery Campaign and help Joplin in its efforts to restore and maintain its tree canopy, please click here.

The following “before and after” photos portray the destruction caused by the May 2011 EF5 tornado that went through Joplin.

Photo Credit: Daily Mail

Alabama Tree Recovery Campaign kicks off tree distribution in 16 tornado-damaged communities

Last Monday, the Alabama Tree Recovery Campaign kicked-off the distribution of thousands of trees for people impacted by the April 27 tornado that swept North Alabama.

The Campaign launch was held at the former location of Mike and Ed’s Barbecue in downtown Tuscaloosa, a site plainly and visibly damaged to this day.

Alabama First Lady Dianne Bentley and Mayor Walter Maddox headlined the event and were joined by Alabama Assistant State Forester Patrick Glass and the Arbor Day Foundation’s Dan Lambe. The Campaign was launched in June by the Arbor Day Foundation the Alabama Forestry Commission as a multi-year, large-scale initiative to restore North Alabama’s community trees to their pre-tornado strength.

Several local mayors and state legislators also showed up at the event to lend their support.

In all, 16 communities will receive 30,000 trees this month in the first phase of this campaign, and the distribution is already underway.

This past weekend, the Birmingham News reported that the Pleasant Grove Boy Scout troop is giving back to its community by helping to hand out 3,000 seedlings. And, the local newspaper in Cullman, Alabama, whose downtown absorbed enormous damage, published a moving editorial about the importance of restoring community forests.

“Throughout Cullman, residents have long been proud of the old trees that shaded yards and portions of the commercial district, which added to the beauty of the area,” the Cullman Times editorialized, adding:

Trees are one of the notable defining features in many communities. The presence of this natural beauty enhances neighborhoods, business areas and the general livability of the community. Bringing the pleasant beauty of trees back to the storm-ravaged areas will go a long way toward rebuilding the beauty and spirit of the community.

The editorial dovetails nicely with this CBS 42 report on how the new trees are making a real difference for Cullman families who are faced with a barren landscape and are looking forward to replacing what they have lost.

The Alabama Tree Recovery Campaign is just getting started, and we’ll keep coming back to distribute trees until North Alabama’s canopy is fully restored.

Help us out if you can by making a donation at arborday.org/Alabama.

Photo courtesy of the Alabama Forestry Commission.