Tree City USA: A Foundation For Better Tree Care

Imagine a community with no trees. No buffer from the frigid January wind. No splash of color and sweet fragrance of blossoms for an April stroll. No shade from the July sun.

In a state like Missouri, where trees are abundant and communities green, it's hard to imagine life without trees. Most of us take our community's trees for granted and never stop to think about the amazing benefits they provide. Trees increase property values, reduce heating and cooling costs, control floods, clean the air, reduce noise, attract tourists, improve our psychological well-being and beautify your surroundings.

The U.S. Forest Service estimates that market values for homes are increased 7 to 20 percent by the presence of trees. In a study in Chicago, the U.S. Forest Service found that a single 25-foot tree can reduce annual heating and cooling costs by 2 to 4 percent, or $28 to $86 per year. When a yard has several trees, the energy savings are increased proportionally.

However, trees in cities and towns cannot be taken for granted. City trees face daily stresses their country cousins never thought about. Soil disturbance and compaction, air pollution, de-icing salt, vandalism, accidental injury and the threat of development are just a few of the problems that attack the health and well-being of community trees.

City trees require care to provide the benefits we often take for granted. Progressive communities have recognized the value of their community's trees and consider trees an important part of their city's infrastructure. For many such cities and towns, the first step toward maintaining, improving and protecting their community's trees is participation in the national Tree City USA program.

Tree City USA (TCUSA) is a community improvement program sponsored by the National Arbor Day Foundation, in cooperation with the National Association of State Foresters, USDA Forest Service, U.S. Conference of Mayors and National League of Cities. Tree City USA goals include recognizing cities and towns that effectively manage their community's trees and encourage the implementation of well planned local forestry programs.

In Missouri, 34 communities received Tree City USA status in 1996. Missouri's Tree City USA community with the largest population is Kansas City, and the smallest Tree City USA is Exeter. Mexico holds the distinction of becoming the first Missouri Tree City USA in 1976 and has recertified its status 17 out of 20 years since that time.

To qualify for Tree City