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Birds Love Native Trees

Illustration: birds flying around tree with fall colorsNative trees — species that are native to a particular geographic area — help protect water quality through their deep, well-adapted root systems that naturally increase the ability of soil to absorb, treat and retain water. These trees are also essential for supporting our region’s diverse bird populations. Native trees produce more insect prey for birds than non-natives ― and 96 percent  of birds raise their young on insects. They are crucial to preserving habitats, and can support 35 times more insect-eating birds than non-natives. Ever-increasing population density in cities makes it more important to consider the impacts of the built environment on wildlife habitats. To promote avian biodiversity, urban areas must be suitable for both humans and wildlife.

Trees that birds love:

The following native trees attract both birds and beneficial insects in our region. Images and information used with permission from the GrowNative! program.

Downy Hawthorn, Crataegus mollis
Roughleaf Dogwood, Cornus asperifolia
Wild Plum - Prunus Americana
Sassafras, Sassafras albidum
Shingle Oak Quercus imbricaria

Because local insects did not evolve with non-native trees and plants, many lack the ability to overcome a non-native tree’s natural defenses and must feed elsewhere. Caterpillars, a fundamental food source for breeding birds, are one of the most specialized groups — over 90 percent of butterfly and moth larvae feed exclusively on certain plants. Currently, more than 80 percent of suburban areas are landscaped with Asian flora, leaving a food-barren environment for birds looking to find nourishment. When non-native trees replace native species, entire food webs can be disturbed by loss of adapted insects, wiping out sustenance for birds.

A study conducted through Smithsonian’s Neighborhood Nestwatch program found birds are more likely to build nests in yards dominated by native trees, and will fly farther to find grub if nest locations are not ideal. Although humans may find non-natives exotic and alluring choices for their landscapes, such choices can decrease birds’ survival and fitness, as many lack nutrient-dense seeds and fruit and may lure birds toward predators. Research by ecologist Amanda Rodewald found that chickadees nesting in invasive honeysuckle reared 20 percent fewer young due to increased predation during the breeding season. Non-native trees can be destructive to bird populations by disrupting natural selection.

Help protect habitats that allow birds to flourish by landscaping your yard with native trees. Birds, insects and many other species will thank you!

Visit the MARC Water Quality native plants page for more about native trees, including some that display fall color. »

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Grant calls for Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) now open

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Division of State Parks, recently announced that grant rounds for the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) are now open.  LWCF grants are available to cities, counties and school districts to be used for outdoor recreation projects.  RTP grants fund trail-related projects and are available to local and state governments, school districts, for-profit and non-profit organizations, and businesses.  The deadline to submit applications for both programs is April 22, 2016. For more information about either of these programs, to download the grant applications, and to register for a grant application workshop, visit

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New initiative calls for public input on watershed planning

Graphic for Lower-Missouri Crooked Watershed blog posts. Contains "Our Missouri   Waters" initiative logo, Missouri Department of Natural Resources logo, and partner   regional planning commission logos for Mid-America Regional Council, Green Hills   Regional Planning Commission and Pioneer Trails Regional Planning Commission.This post is the first in a series about the Lower-Missouri Crooked River Watershed planning process.

Missouri has abundant and diverse water resources rivaled by few other states in the nation. The quality of life for each Missourian is closely tied to the health of our waterways and other natural resources. Ensuring that today’s residents and future generations can enjoy Missouri’s waters is an important part of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ (MDNR) mission. As it works to create a rich legacy for the state’s waters, MDNR recognizes that the agency can’t do this important work alone. MDNR’s “Our Missouri Waters” effort brings together an engaged local citizenry and good science to improve and maintain healthy waterways.

Rather than focusing on regulation, the Our Missouri Waters initiative seeks to share information and build relationships and understandings necessary to maintain healthy watersheds. Residents of area counties are invited to participate in a watershed planning process for the Lower Missouri – Crooked River Watershed. This planning effort is led by the three regional planning commissions located within the watershed — the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), Green Hills Regional Planning Commission (GHRPC), and Pioneer Trails Regional Planning Commission (PTRPC).

Local Advisory Committees will meet in each of the three regional planning commission areas, and we invite you to participate. (See the meeting schedule below.) Each committee will work with local stakeholders and a team of professionals to identify issues, explore possible solutions, and help develop criteria to guide the planning effort. Work will focus on local areas and the watershed as a whole through June 30, 2016, resulting in a healthy watershed plan. Those interested are asked to complete a survey on watershed issues, and review a PDF of background information on the existing conditions of the watershed.

Meeting Times and Locations

  • Dec. 10, 2015, 10 a.m.–noon, Carrollton Library, Basement Meeting Room, 1 N Folger St., Carrollton, MO 64633: Green Hills Regional Planning Commission for Caldwell and Caroll counties.
  • Dec. 16, 2015, 46 p.m., MARC conference center, 600 Broadway, Suite 200, Kansas City, MO 64105: Mid-America Regional Council for Cass, Jackson, Johnson (KS), Ray and Wyandotte (KS) counties.
  • Dec. 17, 2015, 6:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m., Lexington City Hall, 919 Franklin, Lexington, MO 64067: Pioneer Trails Regional Planning Commission for Johnson, Lafayette and Saline counties.

Map of Lower Missouri - Crooked River Watershed with area of detail

Your participation is important to the project. We encourage you to be engaged in the entire planning process and help create a healthy watershed plan that meets the needs of your community and the future of the watershed for generations to come.

Contact Information

Alecia Kates, Water Quality Planner, Mid-America Regional Council
816-701-8233 •
600 Broadway, Suite 200, Kansas City, MO 64105

Randy Railsback, Executive Director, Green Hills Regional Planning Commission
660-359-5636 X11 •
1104 Main Street, Trenton, MO 64683

Ruth Anne Parrott, Environmental Planner, Pioneer Trails Regional Planning Commission
660-463-7934 •
PO Box 123, 802 S. Gordon, Room 102, Concordia, MO 64020

Our Missouri Waters initiative web page, Missouri Department of Natural Resources

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Celebrate Earth Day in Kansas City


Earth Day is celebrated each year on April 22, but several events in the Kansas City region are scheduled between now and June. From puppet shows to river clean-ups, we hope you can find a way to show some love for our environment this year.

Visit MARC’s Earth Day website for more information.

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Spring into river cleanups

BrushCreekFlood(7-11-10)_102Shake off the last of your cabin fever while keeping our waterways clean and healthy. Spring is here, and several clean-up dates are scheduled around the region. Pack your sunscreen and bug spray, and lend a hand to the region’s rivers and creeks. (Be sure to dress for the weather in work-appropriate clothes — long pants and sturdy shoes or boots are strongly recommended.)


River Otter Day

  • Date/Location: Saturday, March 22, 9 a.m.–noon, Richard L. Berkley Riverfront Park, Kansas City, Mo., south pavilion.
  • You Bring: A willing spirit.
  • Provided: Gloves, trash bags, rakes, T-shirts and lunch.
  • Clean up along the Riverfront Heritage trail and wetlands ecosystem. For information, contact Vicki Richmond with Healthy Rivers Partnership.


Oil Creek Cleanup

  • Date/Location: March 29, 9–11 a.m., Wallace Park, Belton, Mo.
  • You Bring: A reusable water bottle.
  • Provided: Training, work gloves, trash bags, morning donuts and lunch.
  • Register with South Grand River Watershed Alliance online or call 816/331-0336
  • Park at Community Center, 16400 N. Mullen Road, Belton, Mo., and follow the signs to the registration tent in the park.


Project Blue River Rescue 24

  • Date/Location: April 5, 8 a.m.–noon, Lakeside Nature Center, Kansas City, Mo.
  • You Bring: A reusable water bottle
  • Provided: Coffee and donuts, T-shirts, tools, work gloves, trash bags and lunch.
  • Register online at or by calling 816/513-8960.
  • All ages and abilities welcome. Lakeside Nature Center is located at 4701 E. Gregory Blvd., in Swope Park.


Leavenworth/Weston Missouri River Clean up

  • Date/Location: June 7, 9 a.m.–noon, Riverfront Park, Leavenworth, Kan.
  • You Bring: A willing spirit.
  • Provided:  Boat ride, T-shirt, trash bags, gloves and a reusable water bottle.
  • Register online with Missouri River Relief or call 573/443-0292.
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Zoo’s penguin exhibit built with animals and environment in mind

Helzberg-Penguins-Blog-Post-PhotoThe Kansas City Zoo buzzed with activity when it opened the new Helzberg Penguin Plaza in October. The new facility was designed with both penguins and the environment in mind. Greenability Magazine organized a tour of the facility in January, sharing information about how the zoo made sustainable decisions when building this regional amenity.

For the penguins’ comfort, the lights in the exhibit are automated to mimic the schedule of the Southern Hemisphere. To conserve energy, the lights in the employee area turn off automatically when not in use. The air and exhaust systems turn off automatically when the doors to the outside open. Additionally, 64 solar panels were installed on the roof to offset some of the energy used in the building.

To save water, the 100,000-gallon tank is filtered instead of drained. Used water is routed to holding basins that filter, sanitize and then return clean water to the exhibit. The system processes water at a rate of 945 gallons per minute, completing a full cycle in about half an hour!

The Helzberg Penguin Plaza is also a LEED-certified building. The exhibit was constructed with 20 percent recycled material, and 75 percent of all construction waste was diverted from the landfill.

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Sustainable product websites help you shop smart for the holidays

paper cardWhen you’re faced with a shelf full of products, it’s hard to know what the best choice is for you and for our environment.

An easy way to help keep our air clean is to shop at locally-owned stores or markets: the shorter the distance a product has to travel, the fewer emissions enter our air. But shopping smart can reach beyond local shops. Several websites add transparency and product information to the decision-making process.

  • helps you buy “safe, healthy, green and ethical products based on scientific ratings.” Products receive scores in three categories: health, environment and society. You can look up your favorite products to learn their scores, or scan a bar code at the store using the mobile app.
  • lists the top 20 best and worst companies based on five categories: environment, human rights, animal protection, community involvement and social justice. They intend to rank “every company in the world,” and you can buy the complete shopping guide for $10 (plus shipping).
  • Try to find holiday cards like these that use soy-based inks to cut down on solvents, and buy 100 percent recycled paper to reduce air pollution associated with growing and logging trees. Or, you might consider sending a Christmas e-card instead.
  • explains how much water it took to get a product to you, whether it’s your daily apple or the jeans you’re wearing. It was originally designed as a free iPhone app, but also has a mobile version available via the website.

Larger corporations have caught on to the eco-trend, as well:

  • Target recently launched its Sustainable Product Standard, designed in partnership with GoodGuide, which adds packaging and water quality scores along with GoodGuide’s rankings.
  • Last year Amazon started, a site which determines if products are sustainable, organic or energy and water efficient, among other standards, before selling them.
  • eBay encourages green shopping with a separate site for green buyers and sellers.

With these resources, you can help our air quality AND check off all the presents on your lists this year.

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Don’t miss these November events!

Nov. 12–13: Installation and Maintenance of Stormwater Treatment Best Management Practices.

Water Quality LogoThis two-day workshop will demystify the most common components of stormwater treatment best management practices (BMPs). Learn from area experts who have experience designing, installing and maintaining the vegetative components of stormwater treatment BMPs.

The workshop is geared toward landscapers, subcontractors and general contractors currently working with stormwater treatment BMPs or those who would like to gain experience with these systems. Sessions will focus primarily on the most commonly installed practices in the metro area at this time — bioretention, rain gardens and native landscaping.

Learn more

Register now


Nov. 19:  Natural Resource Inventory

Be the first to experience new cutting-edge, high-resolution, land-cover data and explore the possibilities.

Local communities across the nation are including natural resource considerations into their planning processes. MARC has assembled the base data essential to integrated environmental planning. This workshop will provide the opportunity to see what new data is available, and how that information may be applied in a variety of contexts to achieve community goals like conserving natural areas, protecting air and water quality, and reducing urban heat islands.

Learn more

Register now

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Creative messaging is an inspiration

In preparation for the Water Quality Education Committee’s fall media campaign, we have been researching a variety of creative ways in which positive environmental messages can be delivered to the public. Our most recent ad campaign included billboards to deliver our message, so we’ve been particularly interested in what others are doing with billboards.

We thought we’d share some of the most innovative billboard ads from around the globe, which not only deliver a clear message, but visually communicate the message to passersby.Photo of Denver Water billboard advertisement

See more examples in this blog post from PGHEnvironmental.

Our advertising budget may not support quite this level of creativity, but we are inspired by what others are doing.

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Tap into grant funds, watch your garden grow

The H2O to Grow Coalition — in collaboration with the Unified Government’s Public Works Department and Public Health Department — has $50,000 in grant funds available for Wyandotte County community gardens and urban farms in need of water taps. Small organizations and individuals often lack the resources to install a new water tap, which can cost from $4,000 to $9,000. The coalition and its partners want to increase access to healthy, locally-grown food in Wyandotte County and reduce stormwater run-off by growing food in empty lots.

“Water access is one of the main barriers to gardens and farms growing more food to feed Wyandotte Countians,” said Katherine Kelly of Cultivate Kansas City, an H2O to Grow Coalition member. “With 18,000 Wyandotte County residents living with low access to food, the H2O to Grow Coalition has been looking for creative ways to remove that barrier.”

Learn more on the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., website.

The coalition will host a grant application workshop Thursday, Aug. 1, at 6:30 p.m., at Cross-Lines Annex, 736 Shawnee Ave., Kansas City, Kan. 66105. The application deadline is Aug. 22.

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