Damage from the EF5 tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri, and the neighboring town of Duquesne

Damage from the EF5 tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri, and the neighboring town of Duquesne. Credit: Kansas City District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

According to the National Climatic Data Center, more than 1,000 tornados strike the U.S. on average each year. Last year surpassed that average: More than 1,600 twisters hit in 2011, taking more than 500 lives and causing immense damage. In late May, a six-day outbreak saw 180 tornadoes across the Midwest and Southeast, including the most deadly tornado since record-keeping began in 1950. The EF5 tornado (the category of highest intensity) hit Joplin, Missouri, on May 22nd. It killed more than 150 people, injured more than a thousand and completely devastated the town and surrounding communities, including the neighboring town of Duquesne, causing billions of dollars worth of damage.

Among the many losses to the region were an estimated 10,000 mature trees. In an urban area, where trees provide vital benefits whose cost would otherwise fall upon the city, the loss of 10,000 trees is a severe blow to the urban tree canopy. To a region recovering from such wide-ranging devastation, funds for tree planting can be hard to come by — no matter how much they are needed.

American Forests is joining forces with Forest ReLeaf of Missouri to help restore part of the area’s canopy. This local organization’s Priority ReLeaf program exists in part to provide trees for communities that have lost them to the storms and tornadoes that frequent the region. The town of Duquesne does not have a local park, but after the recent tornado’s damage to the urban tree canopy, plans are in the works to create one so that some green space can be preserved. Through this project, American Forests and Forest ReLeaf of Missouri’s Priority ReLeaf program will plant 50 trees to help create this urban oasis. Larger trees see better survival rates in urban areas than saplings, so the trees planted in this project will be of a larger caliper than most of those planted in Global ReLeaf projects. This way, Duquesne’s new park is given the best possible chance to flourish.

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